Forget past, I'm scared by Sinn Fein's present policies
A vote for Sinn Fein is a vote for colossal tax hikes, including a new 'wealth' levy, warns Celia Larkin
BAILOUT, support for the banks, support for the economy or just plain back-up money, whatever language you want to put on it, one thing is clear: support from the European Union is crucial to the country and the economy. Crucial. Pivotal. Imperative.
EU membership has been extremely beneficial to us since we joined in the Seventies. Europe is the reason for foreign investment in our country. Pharmaceutical, chemical and ICT companies don't invest here to serve our four million plus population, they invest here because we are part of the Single European Market.
These are companies that provide huge benefit to the areas in which they're situated, excellent PR for Ireland as an industrial base, and good employment to our citizens -- particularly our young graduates. The connection may not be obvious, but both of those realities make Sinn Fein's rise in the opinion polls all the more baffling.
Recent opinion polls have put Sinn Fein at 40 per cent in the Donegal South-west by-election. Now, perhaps that is a once-off. After all, Pearse Doherty does have a very high profile at the moment. He has run for Europe, and is the man responsible for bringing about the by-election as a result of his High Court action against the Government. However, if 40 per cent support for Sinn Fein has become a national trend, then a closer look at what Sinn Fein stands for is merited.
At a time when Europe has never been more crucial to the survival of our economy, it's interesting to note that Sinn Fein has consistently opposed our membership of and participation in Europe. It campaigned against joining in 1972, and has actively resisted our acceptance of the Single European Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon; on every single occasion it campaigned against our par-
ticipation in Europe. Notwithstanding that, the SF candidates who have succeeded in being elected to Europe have aligned themselves with the 'Europe United Left/ Nordic Green Left Alliance', which is in part made up of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia, the French Communist Party and the People's Movement Against European Union. I'm far from a 'reds under the bed' person, but let's get real here. Should Sinn Fein secure a position of power in Dail Eireann, what does membership of such an alliance say to potential foreign investors in Ireland, not to mention the American companies already well established here?
Lack of leadership from any of the main parties is, I have no doubt, responsible for Sinn Fein's meteoric rise in popularity, from 6.9 per cent in the last general election to a whopping 40 per cent in the polls last week. The party's highest rating prior to this was 8.1 per cent in the 2004 local elections.
Gerry Adams obviously sees an opportunity to play a pivotal role in the Dail with his proposed move from Northern politics, where he will resign his seats in the Assembly and Westminster in order to run for a Dail seat in Louth.
There has always been much talk about who would work with, or at least look for support from, Sinn Fein in Leinster House. The undercurrent behind the resistance to partnership with Sinn Fein, particularly on Enda Kenny's part, has always been due to its 'history'. Some Sinn Fein members have likened that to playing the race card. For me, it's not Sinn Fein's 'history' I'm concerned about, it's the party's present-day policies that frighten me.
That's why a closer look at its 'economic plan for recovery 2010' is warranted. We should know what measures we will have to live with should Sinn Fein hold a position of power after the next general election. And, with 40 per cent support, that is very likely.
As with its aversion to EU membership, Sinn Fein is opposed to the four-year adjustment plan beginning in 2011, focused on spending cuts rather than tax increases. The party wants to spread the adjustment out over a longer period. While that might sound like a less painful option in the short term, in reality it means higher interest rates and a prolonging of the recession, a longer period without economic growth, a longer period without the economic climate for job creation. Not something any of us wants to see.
All the main parties agree savings should be weighted in favour of expenditure cuts rather than personal taxation. But not Sinn Fein. It wants to raise €5bn through tax hikes.
First on the agenda is the marginal rate tax, with levies increased to a massive 62 per cent. Sounds like a great incentive to work hard. Sinn Fein says it will introduce a 1 per cent wealth tax. One could be forgiven for thinking, 'I'm not wealthy, so it won't affect me,' but wealth tax can be levied on your property and your savings in the bank or credit union. The party will also increase Dirt tax (that's tax on your rainy-day money, if you have any left) from 25 per cent to 30 per cent. Should you be lucky enough to make any money on the sale of land, property or investments of any sort, you'll pay a whopping 40 per cent capital gains tax.
Before you cast your ballot in the next election, you might like to borrow a line from Fagin in Oliver: "I think I'd better think it out again."
The 'visitors' (IMF and Europe's money men) have been talked about with much trepidation over the last week. From where I'm standing, it's not them we should fear. It's the rise and rise of Sinn Fein.