The revelations are even more concerning when a fringe minority is seeking to sow distrust and attack elected representatives and minorities to further a vicious far-right agenda. We all know the power of politics to transform the lives of people but, unfortunately, we know politics can have a dark side too.
For many years, our political system was plagued with corruption and grubby deals. For decades, we in the Labour Party fought to stamp out corruption. We called out corruption in the planning system when it took place years ago. We sought to pass ethics laws. We ensured the passage of the right to freedom of information, protection for whistle-blowers and a register for lobbyists. We ensured there would be limits on donations and on the power to purchase influence. However, on the necessary further ethics reform, unfortunately since 2016 this and the previous Government have sat on their hands. Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have failed to move further with the necessary reforms.
Brendan Howlin’s Public Sector Standards Bill 2015, which would overhaul SIPO and give it the necessary extra powers it has long sought, was last debated in this Chamber exactly seven years ago, on 20 January 2016. It was then stalled and shelved by the Government in July 2020. We in Labour continue to hold the Government to account – both on the need to deal with individual infractions, and on broader reform issues.
Rather than cleaning up their acts and working on the things that matter, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin insist on giving a Punch and Judy performance in the Dáil every day. These issues serve to distract from the bread-and-butter issues facing families across Ireland – the need for decent and affordable housing; the scandalous situation in our health system, including the treatment of children and young people in the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS); low-paid work and recent mass lay-offs in various industries; the worrying increase in Ireland’s emissions, despite our climate action obligations; and so much more. When I speak to people living in my constituency, and in constituencies around the country, it is those problems which are at the front of people’s minds.
Politics must be better, and politicians must do better.
You may be interested to read about some of the issues Labour TDs and Senators have been raising in the Oireachtas in the past few weeks. As always, if you have any suggestions for campaigns, do please keep in touch by email.
- Several months on from Labour’s Dáil motion to give long-overdue pay increases to community and voluntary workers who care for the most vulnerable people in Ireland, Duncan Smith TD has been sending solidarity to all union workers still waiting on a pay rise, 13 years on.
- Labour has continued to call on the Government to create a single point of coordination for the provision of housing and ancillary services to refugees and asylum-seekers arriving in Ireland.
- Duncan Smith TD and I have been raising the shocking report which exposes how so many children and young people are being sold short by our mental health services.
- Alan Kelly TD and Seán Sherlock TD have been leading the charge, condemning the scandalous Coillte-Gresham House deal which will hand over public money and land into the wallets of private equity and vulture funds.
- Senator Marie Sherlock has been campaigning for the rejuvenation of our city and town centres to include proposals for high quality, well-paid jobs for local communities.
- Ged Nash TD has been holding the Government to account on its failure to pass vital ethics legislation.
- Senator Annie Hoey has been calling for the immediate publication of the report into abuse in St. John’s Ambulance.
- Senator Mark Wall has been raising the plight of families whose electricity has been cut off, despite a moratorium – many of these families still have not received the €200 Government grant. While utility companies attempt to pass the buck, the Government is failing to intervene.
- Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD has been highlighting the collapse in community policing under Fine Gael’s watch, despite being the self-proclaimed party of law and order.
- Brendan Howlin TD will be celebrating 40 years of public service in the Dáil and Seanad in February – 4 decades fighting for an Ireland that works for all.