Cian Prendiville, Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor for Limerick City, will be contesting the upcoming election as the AAAs sole candidate. He took some time to chat with Jimi lately about the issues of the day.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born and raised in Limerick, and have basically lived here all my life. We lived out the road in Meelick for a while, and Moyross, but most of the time in Caherdavin where I am now. I went to Corpus Christi and Christ the King for primary, and Ardscoil Ris for secondary, as well as going to UL.
My first ‘political’ act was to take part in a school student walk out when I was 14, protesting against the invasion of Iraq. That was the big issue that politicised me; the injustice of killing people for profit and oil. From there I began to see how it wasn’t just in Iraq that profit came first, but in Ireland and internationally it is always the super rich who come first. So, after much reading, discussion and debate I became a socialist and got politically active from there.
The AAA has gained huge profile and support in the last 2 years, do you think this is solely attributable to frustration with the status quo?
I think there is a huge frustration with the ‘status quo’. The huge boycott of the water charges, and the resounding YES vote to marriage equality show people are fed up with the austerity and inequality of the past. People want real change. And that is what the AAA is offering. Not just new faces, but a new movement. The AAA is less a political party to represent people, and more a movement of people, standing up and fighting back, and I think that is what appeals to people most.
Given your leadership of the anti water charges movement here in Limerick, what exactly does the AAA propose as a replacement mechanism for funding our national water system?
Firstly, lets be clear: Irish Water is costing more to set up than it is bringing in in charges, even if everyone paid. The consultants, the meters, the advertising, even the bills themselves all cost huge amounts of money, which wouldn’t be needed if these charges were abolished. And then when you factor in the huge non-payment levels, the actual money that they will raise as it stands is nothing.
However, obviously the water service does need to be properly funded. How would we do that? Through the same mechanisms as before: general taxation. We have also proposed how money could be raised by taxing the rich, for instance a financial transactions tax, such as in other countries, would bring in €500m a year, not to mention to money that could be raised by a millionaires tax, or from corporation tax.
Who do you see as viable coalition partners for the AAA?
From our foundation the AAA have ruled out coalition with any of the austerity parties (FF, FG, Lab). We will not repeat the same mistakes of the past where left parties simply prop up capitalist government, and become a mud gaurd for the profit system. I fight for a genuine anti-austerity, left government. In that sense, it isn’t about who, it is about what. What policies would a genuine left government need to challenge austerity, and those pushing it.
I think events in Greece show that an anti-austerity government would have to be committed to breaking with the logic of capitalism. That means repudiating the debt, public ownership of the banks, progressive taxation, and major investment in social housing and jobs, as a minimum.
With the current outlook in Greece under Syriza increasingly uncertain, are you concerned that their policies and approach have damaged left-wing groups across the continent?
I think the events in Greece show the brutal, undemocratic nature of European capitalism and the EU. Despite numerous votes, including a resounding referendum where people rejected austerity, the capitalist government and the EU don’t care. Tspiras obviosuly made the mistake of thinking they could be reasoned with, or compromised with, or that they would have to respect the democratic will of workers and poor people in Greece. His ruling out of any rupture with them and their austerity policies has meant in reality he has capitulated, and is now proposing the very austerity people rejected. I think this has been a real lesson for people across Europe – an anti-austerity government has to be committed to breaking with capitalism and it’s rules.
What’s the practical alternative to austerity?
For a concrete detailing of what we would do differently, you should check out our alternative budget statement last year but I’ll run through the key points here.
Firstly, we start of from the position that austerity is not just unfair, and unjust, but it is unworkable too. Austerity kills growth, you can’t have both.
The key points we outline in our budget submission as an alternative to continued austerity are debt repudiation, investment in jobs, taxing big business and the super rich, and reversing the austerity cuts and taxes imposed on ordinary people. You must remember, the Irish state takes in far more in taxes than it spends on public services. The sole reason for the ‘deficit’ is that every year the government are handing €8bn over to the bankers, in interest only payment on the odious debts built up in a large part by other bankers. The Anti-Austerity Alliance argues for an immediate moratorium on debt payments, with repayment only to those with proven needs (pension funds, private savings of workers etc), which would save apprx €6.6bn a year.
In terms of jobs, we have also outlined in the budget document and our RealJobs programme how public investment could create 150,000 jobs over three years at a net cost of €1.725bn a year. Compare that to the €3.3bn that would be raised by a 5% millionaires tax (a wealth tax on net assets over €1m), or the €2.6bn we proposed could be raised by increaing the income tax level on the top 10%. That is without even considering the issue of corporation tax. If we even enforced the 12.5% corporation tax rate as the effective tax rate, that would bring in an extra €2.4bn, while raising it to the average effective corporation tax as the rest of the EU would bring in €5.3bn. The wealth is there, it is just in the hands of a tiny elite.
There is an alternative. It is one of breaking with the rules of capitalism and austerity and instead making the rich pay.
Would you care to make some predictions as to the results of the Limerick City constituency?
It is hard to know. I think there is potential for a huge shake up of politics in Limerick City. Opinion polls nationally show Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour combined failing to get a majority. One in two people are open to supporting anti-establishment parties. If we seize that opportunity, I think we could see both Fine Gael and Labour losing seats in Limerick, with both Sinn Fein and the AAA winning seats. If the AAA pull that off, and take a seat from the austerity parties, it would be huge. In fact, I think it would be the biggest blow for the establishment parties in Limerick since Jim Kemmy and the Democratic Socialist Party beat Labour in 1981. But I think it can be done.
For more information on Cllr. Prendiville, head to www.cianprendiville.com or www.antiausterityalliance.ie
Jimi is the editor-in-chief of Soapbox. You can get in touch with him here.