The Irish government’s recent vote – in favour of the United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – gives the impression that they care about social justice matters. After-all they could’ve abstained. However, with the writing on the wall becoming clearer for Trump’s administration, and being a deeply unpopular decision by Trump, voting for the resolution was no great risk to Irish competitiveness. Still this example is more the exception than the norm. Rather than risk rocking the boat of potential investment the recent Fine Gael years of Irish government reveal a disturbing trend towards moral cowardice. Since coming to power with a coalition Government in 2011 and then a minority government supported by Fianna Fail (FF), Fine Gael (FG) have demonstrated contempt for matters of integrity and social justice.
Take for example:
How FG presided over Ireland’s failure to endorse a Draft Resolution proposed by Bolivia in the UN General Assembly, aimed at confronting the nefarious manner in which ‘vulture funds’ extort a much higher price from distressed countries for their bonds than what they’d originally paid. We were one of just 11 countries to vote against it while 124 countries voted in favour.
In 2012 the Fine Gael-Labour coalition rejected the introduction of the Tobin Tax for fear of weakening Ireland’s hold over its multinational financial sector. EU leaders proposed the tax as a means of minimising the volatility of market speculation. The tax offers the potential of raising billions for use in fighting climate change and funding global carbon reduction.
Ethical responsibility to climate change has always been low on the Irish government’s agenda. In 2016 Climate scientist Prof. Sweeney described Ireland as a ‘delinquent country’ on climate change due to our ‘pathetic’ contribution to the Green Climate Fund in aid of helping developing countries reach their climate targets. While Sweden had contributed €46.65 and Denmark pledged €9.33 per capita, prof Sweeney has written that Ireland “with the second highest GDP per capita in the EU and one of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita, has pledged €0.53.”
The government has also been promoting Irish agriculture as the saviour of the world due to its supposedly lower-emitting grass-fed beef. This is a ploy to not have to reduce the sector’s very high emissions. The feed-the-world narrative conveniently overlooks the fact that a meat-based diet has higher emissions than a vegetarian diet and that (what is in fact partially) grass-fed Irish beef is a luxury product out of economic reach of most of the earth’s inhabitants.
All of this is in keeping with FG’s continuation of FF’s predatory low-tax policy which lures profits and investment from other countries and contributes to a global race to the bottom – Ireland is often cited to justify calls for lowering corporation taxes just as Trump did recently. Both political parties have even appealed against the EU’s ruling that Apple should pay €13 billion in taxes that were unpaid during a shady arrangement with the government. Most of the tax is owed to this state which is currently undergoing a severe health, housing and homelessness crisis.
Added to all this moral cowardice there’s been the continued Government’s complicity with the stopover in Shannon of US planes carrying military personnel to war zones; plus the abandonment of asylum seekers for years in direct provision centres – i.e. human warehouses.
What all this has in common – from the deference to Vulture funds, to the hypocrisy on climate change, perhaps even to the asylum seekers with the economic threat apparent in politicians’ repeated reference to how letting them in will open the ‘floodgates’ – is the fear of loss of competitiveness. The Irish state is a ‘competition state’ that puts foreign investment and agricultural exports before global citizenship, social justice and basic humanity. Arguably, the Irish media assists in this deference by continuing to discuss politics in the terminology of the state, which is often a narrow economism with little room or appeal to the moral argument.