7 October 2023
By Bryan McCarthy
Aontú is one of the smaller political parties – with just 1 TD and 3 Councillors – but the All Ireland party is looking forward to the next election where it hopes to collect votes from voters who are seeking a change from FF and FG
Keynote Speech by Peadar Tóibín at the Aontú Ard Fheis taking place this weekend
Ireland is at a crossroads. The choices we make over the next number of elections will determine the shape Ireland will exist in the coming years. From the direction of travel of this government, Ireland will be unrecognisable to many of us. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have forgotten that they are employed by the people. They seem to think the electorate is the media, NGO, political, media bubble. Fine Gael are politically jaded and spent. A fifth of the TDs have already declared they are not running again. Fianna Fáil have become a hollow husk. Empty of any core values and blown in which ever direction the wind takes them.
The very fabric of Irish society is fraying like never before. A government distracted by the Culture wars and ignoring the needs of an Gardaí Suiochána has left our streets and our town squares unsafe. The sight of Gardaí on the beat in our towns is treated as an apparition by citizens.
Last week I held a public meeting in Meath on the issue of Crime and anti social behaviour. I was shocked at some of the points that were made that night. Women working in shops with being threatened with rape and sexual assault by children if they go to the Garda to report a theft.
Gangs of criminals walking over 2 kilometres through a town smashing windows, breaking in to shops and robbing and assaulting people over a 90 minutes slow motion crime spree. Massive windows of pubs on the main street being smashed in the middle of a Sunday, drugs being sold and taken in the open on main streets and squares.
The scariest thing that I noticed about the meeting was that the majority of the victims of crimes either would not go to the Gardaí or would not give evidence due to fear. They feel that there is a small cohort of criminals that have immunity from justice. Many of this cohort have dozens of convictions without any custodial sentence.
Its quite clear that we have reached a dangerous tipping point in terms of crime and anti-social behaviour in towns and villages across the country. Under Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens Ireland is becoming a more violent and dangerous place. This is not hyperbole. Rape has doubled in the last 10 years. Sexual Assault has doubled in the last 10 years. The murder rate has soared nearly doubling in a year.
It has not happened by accident. There is a direct corelation between the number of Gardaí and the level of crime. There is a direct correlation between the number of road fatalities and the number of Gardaí.
Ireland has one of the smallest per capita police forces in the EU. Every year Minister McEntee has been Minister for Justice, the number of Gardaí has fallen. Hundreds of Garda are being assaulted every year. Hundreds are retiring and resigning each year and recruitment to Templemore has collapsed. Morale is on the floor. Drug rehabilitation, mental health services, you facilities are all suffering funding reductions.
You imagine all of this would have consumed the Minister for Justice over the last 4 years? But no. They Minister for Justice has been distracted by the Culture Wars focusing on the Hate Speech Bill for most of the last 18 months.
I want Gardaí to know that we have their back. We have produced a Bill that would ensure a custodial sentence for anyone who purposefully injures a Garda, a nurse or a fire man or woman.
In a similar situation Stephen Donnelly is presiding over 1 million Irish people languishing on hospital waiting lists. One million people whose health is worsening every day. One million people who are likely to need more expensive and more invasive treatment when and if they finally get it.
We in Aontú found out that ½ a million people suffered adverse incidents and damage in the HSE in the last 5 years. Our questions uncovered that 3,154 people were killed because of a mistake in an Irish hospital in the last 5 years. The human cost of understaffing and mismanagement is enormous. It’s a national scandal that thousands of people are dying needless in our hospital.
But the financial cost is also incredible. The state has paid out €1.5 billion in compensation to families that the state has damaged in the last 5 years.
This has happened in the main because hospitals are so desperately understaffed. And the HSE remains massively mismanaged.
So what is the Stephen Donnelly’s focus. He set up an abortion review that sought to get rid of the 3 day wait.
Today at least 3,000 children are sitting around the dinner table who are alive today because of the 3 day consideration time. And yet the authors of the review recommended to delete this three day wait time. They did these without speaking to one mother or child who benefit from it.
The review did not speak to many of the hundreds of mothers who are suing the state for adverse incidents. Most amazingly of all the chair of the review has proposed that prolife Nurses and doctors should not be employed in these hospitals.
So at a time when the health service is under so much pressure, reports commissioned by the Minister for Health are recommending not employing doctors and nurses because they support the right to life.
Aontú believe that we all live under the same sky. We are all responsible for each other no matter how small or vulnerable at this is the case for the whole of life. This philosophy does not just last for the first 9 months but for the whole life.
Last week childcare and early years education workers went on strike. 4,000 of them protested outside the Dáil and I was proud to be able to address the strikers. They are forced to strike because the government are refusing to fund the sector.
What’s the point of the Government decreasing the cost of childcare if it also closes childcare facilities in the process.
Aontú has found out very recently that Children in state care, some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being exposed to sexual exploitation, prostitution and are going missing, possibly being trafficked because the state will not fund professional supports.
The Minister was posted 4 reports that detailed some of these shocking situations by a former judge who broke cover due to the seriousness of the situation. Aontú research found out that Minister Roderic O Gorman deleted three of the reports that were sent to him.
Nursing homes are also closing down across the country because the government are refusing to fund them. What does it say about a government that seeks a bargain basement yellow pack service to the people who are most precious to us, our young, old and vulnerable.
The Budget will take place next week. Aontú is also being honest with the people. You cannot have European Public Services on American income taxes. We have stated clearly that if we want to Gardaí, teachers and nurses to work in our public services we need to make sure that terms, conditions and wages are fair. To do this you must fund public services properly. Let that message go out loud and clear. We need to fund public services properly.
But we have also been hard on public service waste, dysfunction, bureaucracy and red tape.
We have called for a cut in the lower rate of USC so low- and middle-income earners can benefit. We believe that profitable banks should pay more with and increase in the Banking Levy to €400m.
Housing is probably the most damaging dysfunction that exist. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael shut down the provision of social housing for over a decade. This has left well over 100,000 young people in housing distress. Its led to the highest rents in Europe and another generation slaves to the banks.
It has left 12,800 people in emergency accommodation. Worst of all this government has left hundreds of people to die on the streets of our capital city in just the last few years. Deaths that would have gone unnoticed if it were not for the work of Aontú to highlight these shocking and inhumane deaths.
Shockingly there are hundreds of small builders not building. Vulture funds are paying no tax on hundreds of millions of euro of rental income and Air BnB are renting thousands of family homes to tourists while thousands of homeless families are stuck in hotel rooms.
It was Aontú that brought to light the fact that 3,500 Local Authority homes that are empty. 3,500 Council houses empty in the jaws of a National Housing Crisis. It takes on average 8 months on average to turn around an empty local authority house while it takes 3 weeks on average to turn around a private rental home.
This for me perfect example of all that is wrong with the dysfunction of this government. Its this uselessness, lets call a spade a spade, thats at the heart of the ballooning costs to the National Children’s hospital.
Aontú will end Air bnb operating in towns and cities for three years. Aontú will tax Vulture funds. Aontú will ensure that council homes are turned around within 4 weeks. Aontú will properly grant fund the refurbishment of the thousands of empty homes around the county. Aontú will build 20,000 social houses a year. We will do that by making it attractive for young Irish emigrants to come home.
600,000 people in poverty. 280,000 people in electricity bill arears and 160,000 others in gas arrears.
The government is speaking in measured tones sympathising with struggling and impoverished citizens. While at the same time the government is taking more money in tax on fuel and energy than ever before from your parents. It was Aontú that broke this news when other opposition parties remained completely silent.
The Government have jacked up the excise of petrol and diesel in June, again in September, they will raise carbon tax next week and excise again at the end of October. They increased tolls in July and will raise them again in January. Indeed Ireland has the highest electricity costs on the whole of Europe.
Does this look like a government that is concerned about struggling families? No, this looks like highway robbery. Aontú will put a ceiling on petrol and diesel at June levels to protect families.
Look at agriculture, Irish farming is under attack like never before.
Year after year we know that significant amounts of beef from Brazil is being substituted for Irish beef. Now Irish beef is one of the least environmentally damaging beef products in the world.
On the other hand the amazon forests are being felled at increasing rates to facilitate the production of Brazilian beef and then it is being transported thousands of miles to Ireland and the rest of the EU.
Aontú will do all in our power to end the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement. Its bad for farmers and its bad for the environment.
Look at the case for Irish peat and turf. The government has taken steps to radically decrease the production of turf in the middle of an energy crisis. Their banning of peat production has massively hurt the horticulture sector.
And yet we see massive amounts of peat being imported from Lativia and the Netherlands. In an energy and cost of living crisis Aontú will guarantee the right to cut turf.
It was Aontú that tabled the Bill to prevent factories and supermarkets from exploiting farmers and to guarantee a minimum price for beef. Indeed we stood with farmers at beef factories across the state and represented them in the High Court.
It was our Ireland South Candidate Patrick Murphy who discovered that the government were pilfering the Brexit Adjustment Reserve fund for their own pet project. The Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund was designed in Europe for farmers.
Patrick Murphy also discovered that the Minister for Environment took 1.5 million euro intended to ensure a ‘just transition’. Patrick Murphy has accurately stated that the damage the government has reeked over the fishing industry over the last two decades is now being played out in the farming sector.
Regional and rural Ireland have been forgotten about. Ireland is developing a city state. With workers commuting from Ulster, Connacht and Munster to Dublin. If you are young, you have little choice but to move to the commuter belt for work.
Aontú is ambitious to rebalance Ireland . Aontú in government will develop a city on the west coast of Ireland to rebalance the lopsided development of the country.
A city big enough in international terms to be able to draw down international investment in its own right.
We will also reduce the cost of public transport by 20% to take pressure off commuters. Aontú is the party of infrastructure development. Aontú will build the A5 dual carriageway, the Navan to Dublin Rail Line and the Western Rail Corridor.
I want to thank the team that fought the recent elections in the North. I want to thank Emmet Doyle who was and will be an excellent Councillor for Aontú. I want to thank the whole 6 county team most especially Sharon Loughran who was attacked twice in the most horrendous sectarian manner.
During the elections her house was daubed with threatening UDA graffiti. Worse than that, in the dead of night on July 12th. Her car was torched, causing serious damage to her home. It’s a credit to her wonderful strength that Sharon Loughran has that she has not been bullied or intimidated and has remained steadfast in her activism in Newry.
The British Legacy Bill has become legislation. This is a devastating blow against Victims and Survivors of British military violence.
The British Legislation gives murderers an amnesty for the most vicious and heinous violence. It is the son and heir of the British government’s policy of cover up when their forces murdered these innocent victims in the first place.
Families who have battled decades to achieve truth and justice for their loved ones are now faced with a future where the door to justice and truth is shut tight.
The southern government has depended on a strategy of talk and diplomacy to try and stop the Legacy Bill. That strategy has failed.
I ask the Mícheal Martin in the Dail would he adhere to the object of the Aontú Bill and bring the British Government to European Court of Human Rights to stop this Bill.
The Tánaiste equivocated in his response. Standing up for the rule of law, for truth and justice and the protection of victims should not be a point of evocation. It should not be a “might”, an “if” or a “maybe” issue. It should be the all-consuming instinct of an Irish government, a government with any level of back bone.
But that back bone has been missing for some time. The people of the north have been denied democracy for well over a year.
In case the government didn’t know it, democracy is a human right. No something tat can we withheld to suit anyone party. The north suffered from Unionist majority rule for many years. But now we have Unionist minority rule.
The DUP is a minority party yet in have held the whole of the north to ransom. The fabric of the society in the north is disintegrating. Housing, health, policing, the environment is all suffering. Lough Neagh has become a timely symbol.
Mícheal Martin like Jack Lynch is standing idly bay and letting it all happen. The Irish government are the co guarantors of the good Friday agreement, but they are not co guaranteeing anything.
Aontú was the first party to seek to reform the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement to stop either the DUP or Sinn Féin crashing the Assembly ever again,. It is Aontú that seeks to devolve taxation powers from London to Belfast. It was Aontú that tabled the Bill to mandate the government to bring the government to the European Court of Human Rights over the Legacy Bill.
Aontú is the party of accountability. It is Aontú that have pushed the Government for an investigation into the mistakes that cost so much during Covid especially in Nursing Homes. We are still the only party calling on the government to investigate the significant spike in excess deaths that are happening for the last few months. Aontú challenged the inhumane and disproportionate maternity restrictions forcing government change.
Aontú led thousands of people in the National Hospital Campaign protest outside 18 hospitals north and south. It was Aontú that was the first party to raise the case of the Women of Honour in the Dail.
It is Aontú that has continuously challenged the government on the number of women that are still forced to go to court because of the Cervical Check scandal. We did not hide behind the door on challenging the government on the Childrens’ Hospital, RTE, Katherine Zappone, Robert Watt and Tony Holohan scandals.
It is Aontú that seeks to amend the Gender Recognition Act to prevent male born sex offenders being located in Women’s Prisons. A bill that has now the signatures of 10 TDs.
Aontú is a young party. We are just 4 years old. Yet we have built a well organised political movement throughout the 32 counties. Although, we are small we have proven to be a significant challenge to the government and the political establishment.
Aontú membership is at record levels. Our vote and our poll ratings are higher than long established political parties, with many more elected reps, who are in receipt of state funding.
Let the message go out loud and clear from this Ard Fheis, Aontú will Break through, in 2024.