By Siobhán Cronin
WHEN the government says there is no money for things like schools and hospitals and housing, they are lying, an MEP has claimed.
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has suggested that there is a huge amount of European funding available for these projects if the Government is willing to use it for them. She added that the onus is on our government to deliver European funds for people.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after voting against extending the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) until 2020. Ms Ní Riada, who sits on the EU Budgets Committee, said that while the EFSI had the potential to be a positive initiative, she could not in good conscience support extending it in its present form.
‘I could not and will not support the extension of the EFSI in its current guise,’ she said. ‘While I welcome any investment in Ireland, it is clear that the implementation of the EFSI is not working for ordinary people.’
Miss Ní Ríada said that at the outset of introducing the EFSI, she had argued that unless it was used properly, the scheme was in danger of becoming ‘nothing more than a publicly funded and guaranteed loan scheme for private industry’.
She said that out of the €251bn currently spent through EFSI, social infrastructure only accounts for 4% of that spending. ‘Following the deep economic crisis initiated by the private sector, specifically in banking, and the deep recession instigated by the intervention of the Troika, it is shameful to say the least that the European project is now prioritising the rebuilding of the private sector through public guarantees with public funds.’
She said the EFSI can deliver first class health services as other countries have used it to do. ‘It can be used to invest in education and public infrastructure. In order for this to happen, responsibility falls on the current Irish Government. They must begin putting the interests of the people over further enriching the wealthy,’ she said.
‘This means prioritising social projects that will take citizens off their sheets of cardboards in doorways, our elderly off hospital trolleys and our children out of overcrowded classrooms. When the government tells you there is no money for things like schools and hospitals and housing, they are lying. There is a huge amount of European funding available for these projects if the Government is willing to use it for them.’