Coalition, social partners unite to impose the IMF agenda
...but labour begins to fragment under the pressure
Under the pressure of new ECB and IMF demands the Irish government has three responses. One is to slavishly obey. The second is to plead desperately for the bank debt to be taken off their books so that the interest repayments will be reduced. The third is to display their traditional levels of corruption - to continue lining their own pockets and to refuse, under any circumstances, to pay themselves for the crisis they created.
So IMF pressure led to a "battle" in the government around Croke Park. The outcome of this sham fight was never in doubt. All agreed that public sector pay would be hit again. The only issue was would the cuts apply now or wait for renegotiation? In an extraordinary double act Labour and the ICTU came together. Labour ministers called for a review of allowances - a central part of many pay scales. The call was immediately supported by David Begg.
The idea that there is no alternative to austerity is so pervasive that the government were able to deliver a yes vote for the Fiscal Stability Pact and, in a Red C poll, get majority support for further public sector pay cuts.
In fact that's not so surprising. The clearest source of a potential opposition to austerity - the union leaders - support it by supervising cuts agreed under the Croke Park agreement. The agreement itself swaps limited pay protection for existing public service workers in exchange for speedups, layoffs and the decimation of services.
Another main area of attack has been health. Proposals for a primary care network are a mixture of service cutback. Money is to be saved by offering primary care as opposed to hospital care. Private investment offers the opportunity for the lining of many pockets.
The stink of scandal has surrounded the person of Minister James Reilly. Apparently being an investor in private health is not a bar to holding his position. Neither is bankruptcy in your investment, nor being brought to court for non-payment of debt. It turned out that adjusting the list of areas to add resources to your own constituency and help a pal is not a barrier either - although the price to be paid for that was the departure from office and from the Labour party of junior minister Roisin Shortall.
Another front in the continuing offensive is taxation. The government advances slowly on the household charge. It hesitates around IMF demands for a 0.5% property tax, partly because levels of resistance would increase sharply when growing layers found themselves unable to pay, partly because any tax that is proportional to property value will force them to tax themselves. One of the most striking aspects of the Irish crisis has been the extent to which Irish capital has been able to avoid any negatives consequences for itself.
Many workers acquiesce to the cuts and try to adapt because they see no alternative and because their traditional leaderships support the austerity. That doesn't mean that nothing is happening. Under enormous pressure existing political structures are being eaten up. The Labour Party is fragmenting under the pressure. Roisin Shortall's departure is only part of a more general discomfort, with Labour Youth and a number of Labour councillors trying to distance themselves from the reaction and corruption of the coalition government.
The socialist movement have an opportunity
to intervene in the many shifts and debates that will arise, but only if
they advance a revolutionary programme - not by advancing the reformist
ideas that have failed so drastically.