For the first time, the Labour Party is actively increasing inequality in Irish society, writes FINTAN O'TOOLE
TWO THOUSAND years ago, the Roman satirist Martial explained in 12 words precisely why the Labour Party is in very deep trouble: Vainly the poor extend their palms / Only the rich are given alms.
Labour consoles itself with the usual martyrology of unpopular governing parties: people don’t like us because we’re inflicting necessary pain. The truth is that people don’t like Labour because it is inflicting pain unequally.
For the first time in its 100-year history, it is actively increasing inequality in Irish society – and if Labour is not about equality, it is about nothing at all.
Labour is, in Pat Rabbitte’s startlingly apt phrase last week, “policing” the troika’s Irish policy.
The policy is a pantomime horse operated by drunks moving in two directions at once. It protects the existing distribution of privilege in Irish society – literally at all costs, but it appeals to a rhetoric of equally shared sacrifice. If Labour was going to become the troika’s policeman, the least it had to do was to inject some reality into that rhetoric.
It could look to its sister party in Britain for the best example of how austerity could be combined with increasing equality.