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State Interventionism

Leo Varadkar, the Fine Gael Leader, is still touting the 1980s rhetoric of low
taxes and impoverished public services. For me, the State is a force for good.

By Ivana Bacik

I’m running as a candidate in the Dublin Bay South Bye-election to make a difference.

Politics is at a crossroads. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, some truths are clear:
• Public services are essential and require effective funding
• The market cannot deliver those essential public services
• And our neighbourhoods and communities are what have got us through this.

So what does that mean for politics? Well, there’s the Fine Gael option. Here’s just one example – at the first announcement of a major multi national business offering flexible work arrangements, Leo Varadkar floats the idea of cutting the tax rate for higher earners.

That’s simply not good enough.

The truth is that the Government’s own expert committee, the Fiscal Advisory Council, has said its budgetary forecasts “lack credibility” and its
spending forecasts are “not realistic”.

Yet, apparently Tánaiste believes the smallstate mantra that tax cuts are the best way to emerge from the pandemic. Mr Reagan and Mrs Thatcher would be proud.

The reality is that we’ve have had two global catastrophes in a decade: the global financial crash and Covid-19.

We should have learnt the same lesson from both – that the ‘market’ cannot be allowed to dictate public policy. But the Fine Gael leader is still touting the 1980s rhetoric of low taxes and impoverished public services.

I disagree profoundly with this option. For me, the State is a force for good.

I believe that in our public services – our housing, health and social care, community amenities and climate change – the State needs
to take a central and active role.

In particular, it is clear that the market won’t resolve the housing crisis, regardless of how Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael still cling to that myth.

What is required instead is a significant increase in State funding. A doubling of public investment in housing, as recommended by the ESRI in recent weeks, would see approximately 18,000 new homes being built each year. This level of public investment will increase supply, provide affordable homes and give people the housing security they need to get on with their lives.

However, to be realistic, this ramping up of supply will take time. So, what is to be done in the meantime? There are some quick wins that we should immediately implement:
• Legislate to remove the 8% rent hike that tenants are facing post-Covid.
• Freeze rents for three years and then link annual allowable rent increases to the rate of inflation.
• Prevent Airbnb and other operators regaining a significant hold on the Dublin rental market.
• Fund local authorities to return every boarded-up house and flat in their ownership to productive use by the end of the year, to ensure that no family facing homelessness is in long-term temporary accommodation.

All these actions require an interventionist State, a government committed to putting the public good above private interests. That philosophy has never been more needed.

But the current government just doesn’t get it. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are two deeply conservative parties. Why they have a separate existence is beyond me, but that’s for another day. What matters now is their collective mindset and that mindset is stifling this country. We
don’t need tax cuts or outdated political models.
We need a bold vision for a fair city and a fair country, meaning that:
• People should be able to rent or buy in their own city;
• Children with additional needs should have access to supports in local schools;
• Every worker should have the right to sick leave and holiday entitlements.

I am contesting the Dublin Bay South byeelection to put forward an alternative vision – for a politics where public good trumps private interest, where investment in education takes precedence over tax cuts, where housing is treated as a right, not a privilege.

This is just a matter of fairness. Yet the current Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil government cannot even aspire to this.

I am contesting the Dublin Bay South byeelection to put forward an alternative vision – for a politics where public good trumps private interest, where investment in education takes precedence over tax cuts, where housing is treated as a right, not a privilege.

I’ve campaigned for justice and human rights all my life, often when it was neither profitable nor popular. Now, more than ever, we need principled, left-wing voices making the case against the stultifying conservatism that still throttles our future. In a constituency where three out of four outgoing TDs are from government parties – and all four are male – we need to see change.