Socialist Worker 380

SW After the Referendum

The massive YES vote in the Marriage Referendum was a great victory for the principle of equality. It demonstrated beyond doubt that Ireland has changed for the better and it showed the commitment of the Irish people to equality for all.

It was a victory for the LGBTQ community who were the core of the campaign and now know they have the respect and support of the majority of their fellow citizens.

It was a victory for the young who canvassed door to door and on the streets in big numbers who came home to vote in droves, and who represent the future.

It was also a victory for the working class. There is a persistent media myth that it is the middle classes who are ‘liberal’ and ‘enlightened’ whereas the working class tend to be prejudiced and bigoted.

The referendum results gave the lie to this. The largest most overwhelming Yes votes were in solid working class areas like Balleyfermot (85%), Cheery Orchard (90% !) and Fingal – one box came in 100%  Yes!

Ireland has also led the way internationally giving inspiration to LGBTQ activists and putting legislators on the spot across the globe.

So we can all celebrate, but we can’t rest on our laurels. This win is just a stepping stone in the struggle for equality in society as a whole. Ireland remains a deeply unequal society.

Unfinished Business

In terms of gender and sexuality two issues stand out as unfinished business. The first is a woman’s right to choose. Without free, safe and legal abortion women cannot achieve real freedom and equality. And in Ireland that means repealing the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

The second is ending discrimination against trans people. The Gender Recognition Bill recognising Trans identity is going before the Dail and the issue has considerable momentum behind it in Ireland and internationally.

There is also a huge amount that needs to done in relation to racial and ethnic equality. The atrocious Direct Provision system for asylum seekers is an abuse crying out to be tackled [See article P.7]  So too is the terrible discrimination and deprivation inflicted on Travellers, who also urgently  need their identity to be recognised

And there needs to be an ongoing campaign against the idea promoted  by politicians and the media that ‘foreigners’, ‘migrants’ and, especially, Muslims are a ‘problem’ or ‘threat’ to Irish working people when really they enrich our society.

Economic Inequality

But above all there is the problem of economic inequality. There is a horrendous gap between the tiny minority of super rich at the top, the 1%, and the large majority of ordinary people at the bottom and this gap is getting wider.

There are now 90,000 millionaires in Ireland and the richest 300 – the likes of Denis O’Brien, Dermont Desmond, Galen Weston, Michael O’Leary and Bono – own between them €70 billion! That’s up 15% on last year.

This in a society where rents are skyrocketing, there’s an epidemic of homelessness, children are going hungry to school and single parents are being hammered,  community programmes are cut to the bone, the health service is in crisis  and most people are set upon with charges and taxes which leave them struggling to make ends meet.

It is this economic inequality which weighs heaviest on the lives of working people and it disfigures the whole of society. As much research has shown the higher the level of inequality the worse the level of all social problems such as suicide, drug addiction, crime, domestic abuse, street violence and so on.

But tackling economic equality is a much bigger task than removing marriage inequality. It can’t be done just by a referendum or a new law and it won’t be supported by the political establishment. On the contrary they will resist it tooth and nail.

In the end achieving any degree of economic equality means challenging the whole economic and political set up in society – it needs a real revolution and that can only be achieved by the mass of working people themselves.

First steps

As a start in this direction we need to defeat the water charges, austerity and the government. These tasks go together. Water charges, like the Property Tax and the Universal Social Charge before them, are deeply unfair and hit the poor hardest. They are the key issue for rolling back austerity as a whole. And we can defeat them by holding firm on NON – PAYMENT.

Breaking the water charges and sinking Irish Water will also sink the Government. We also need resistance across the board – from workers against rotten conditions like at Dunnes Stores, against privatisations like Aer Lingus and the buses, from communities seeing their services decimated and from every group of working people under attack.

But we also need a new political movement of the Left to challenge the establishment – the rotten troika of Fianna Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour, – and willing to go further than Sinn Fein in cancelling the bankers’ debt and taxing the rich and the corporations.

These are big tasks and they will need a huge struggle but that is what is necessary to build on the referendum victory and make Ireland a more equal society.

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