Syriza triumph inspires Irish campaign against austerity


The victory in last weekend’s Greek general election of the left-wing Syriza party has electrified European politics and inspired new confidence in Ireland’s anti-austerity movement and parties.

“Greece is leaving behind the destructive austerity, fear and authoritarianism. It is leaving behind five years of humiliation and pain,” SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras told supporters after the party won a large victory in the January 25 elections.

Tsipras told the crowd: “The sovereign Greek people today have given a clear, strong, indisputable mandate. Greece has turned a page.”

Syriza campaigned on a platform of ending the austerity that has lead to a dramatic cut to the income of most Greek people, and greater unemployment, homelessness and suicides.

As well as immediate measures to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and reverse austerity, Syriza is seeking a debt conference to renegotiate Greece’s debt with the aim of wiping a large portion of it off, and having payments for the remainder linked to economic growth.

Sinn Fein’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty congratulated the party led by Alexis Tsipras on its “stunning” victory, saying it offered a real change for Greeks and an opportunity for “progressive change” in Europe.

Sinn Fein leader Adams described the election result as “a victory of hope over fear”. He congratulated the Greek Prime Minister on his historic election victory and wished him well in his new position as leader of the new coalition government. He also pledged Sinn Fein’s support for Mr Tsipras’s opposition to austerity and for the resolution of the debt burden as a European issue.

“Austerity has heaped severe hardship on citizens in Greece, Ireland and across Europe. It has seen public services dismantled and vicious attacks on the welfare of working people. It makes no economic or social sense, except for the elites,” he said.

“The Fine Gael/Labour Government in Ireland is ideologically wedded to austerity and has shown no appetite in seeking a better debt deal for Irish citizens.”

Tthe Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy described the result as a “decisive rejection by the Greek people of savage austerity and a campaign of fear run by the Greek and EU establishment”.

Richard Boyd Barrett, a TD for the People Before Profit Alliance, said Syriza’s win should prompt a new campaign to repudiate the “odious” debts of banks and bondholders imposed on ordinary Irish citizens.

“After six years of cruel and unjust austerity, the people of Greece have led the way in Europe, saying ‘enough is enough’,” he said.

Following his victory, Mr Tsipras has pursued a long list of campaign pledges that it putting the country on a collision course with Brussels, Berlin, and Frankfurt.

Privatisation plans have already been halted, and the minimum wage will be raised by over 50% in the most dramatic rejection of Troika austerity terms.

Mr Tsipras told his new cabinet that the government is willing to negotiate on its demands for debt relief but will not abandon its core promises to the Greek people.

“We will not seek a catastrophic solution, but neither will we consent to a policy of submission. The country is holding up its head,” he said.

In the Dail, Mr Adams expressed dismay at Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s repeated rejection of the proposal for a European Debt conference.

He said Ireland’s debt burden had been forced upon the people and was “the single biggest cause of our economic misery”.

This is not just an Irish problem, he said. “This is a European problem. It needs a European solution.

“There is nothing whatsoever to lose if the Taoiseach endorses a European Debt Conference. It makes sense. There can only be gains.”

The cutting edge of austerity was this week reflected in a further fall in the quality of Ireland’s health service, which has plummeted eight places to 22nd in a European league table.

The latest Euro Health Consumer Index (ECHI) was published as nurses continue to protest against overcrowding, cutbacks and general mismanagement in Ireland’s hospitals.

Public protests have also been taking place outside hospitals. In Limerick, left-wing protestors were dragged away by Gardai police after they blocked the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar’s car as he visited University Hospital in the city.

With dozens of patients piled up on trolleys inside the hospital’s Emergency Department, a spokesperson for the Anti Austerity Alliance claimed Varadkar had left the accident and emergency department looking like a “crime scene”.

Meanwhile, the government is moving to sell off the privatised Irish national airline, Aer Lingus.

The planned sale was described as an “act of economic treason” by Republican Sinn Fein and a “major concern” by Sinn Fein.

“All the markers of a sovereign and independent state have been given away by successive administrations,” said RSF leader Des Dalton.

“For an island nation to be deprived of the ownership and control of all these essentials modes of transport and communication leaves the Irish people even further at the mercy of transnational capital.

Mr Adams said direct air services and air route connectivity were “absolutely vital” for investment, tourism and business in Ireland.

The proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by IAG represented significant risks to the Irish economy and employment for Irish workers.

“The government again faces a choice, of rewarding wealthy businessmen at the expense of Irish citizens or of defending Irish national interests,” he said.

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