General Election 2020: Why students should vote for the Social Democrats

The University Observer has invited all of the student political societies to write about why students should vote for their parties. Up first are the Social Democrats, written by Richard Smith, Events Coordinator, UCD Soc Dems

From its foundation in 2015, the Social Democrats have been a party founded on the principles of providing a robust, credible social-democratic alternative to the corporatist status quo. Nearly a decade of Fine Gael government has seen exacerbation of the crisis in our health service, unchecked inaction on climate change and the environment, deterioration in housing and homelessness, and a steep rise in the cost of living to name but a few. The Social Democrats have a solid nine-point manifesto that aims to address these issues, building a fairer, more just society while developing an eco-friendly, sustainable and prosperous economy, both at national and community level. These are not simply pipe dreams, but costed and well considered viable options. With the Social Democrats, a better future is possible.

Our healthcare system has been stretched to its limits in past decade. Patients are dying while waiting on life-saving treatments, while hospital overcrowding continues to deteriorate. Vulnerable citizens are also left to pick up the cost of vital hospital treatments. For a Country purporting to be one of the most well off in the world, this is a disgrace. One of the key aims for the Social Democrats if elected will be to build a modern and dependable national health service, Sláintecare. Under this scheme, the emphasis would be on the needs of the patient with prompt treatment rather than on ability to pay. In 2020, Ireland is one of the few countries in western Europe that doesn’t have a national health service. It’s time to change that. We have a wealth of valuable talent within our health service whose potential we are ready to unlock with better and more efficient management. Among our other healthcare initiatives, we have policies on improving access to mental health services and sexual health education. Under-resourcing has meant that mental health continues to be a dominant healthcare issue in Ireland, and improving access to counselling services and elimination of stigma are core aims for the Social Democrats moving forward. Our sexual education programme would see better implementation of the National Sexual Strategy and improved education in areas such as body positivity, gender identity, sexual orientation, STI education and prevention and much more. The Social Democrats Healthcare policy is one of a party which cares about the condition and welfare of the people of Ireland.

The crisis in housing in this country continues to deteriorate every day. We have around 250,000 on the official housing listand house prices are always increasing – up 13% since last year. According to Focuse Ireland, the number of people homeless stood at 10,448 in November 2019, while homeless families have increased by over 300% since 2014, a significant indictment of this government’s failure to deal with the problem. Most of the problem with Fine Gael’s strategy in this regard has been ideological, with the party being overly dependent on the private sector to deliver new homes rather than utilising government funds and vast amounts of publicly-owned land to build those homes. Their approach is out of touch with the needs of the people. The Social Democrats will deliver social housing by use of public land banks – with a mixture of 70% housing for purchase, 20% affordable housing and 10% social housing. We will strengthen legislation forboth the Minister and local authorities to ensure the best prices are achieved in negotiation over public land and that work towards fairer mortgage rates by encouraging better competition in the sector. We will also strengthen renter’s rights by introducing our 12 point Renters Charter, which will include the introduction of proper rent caps, scrapping the stamp duty on rents and introduction of a rents register so that prospective renters can see how much previous tenants paid.Our Housing policy will help to transform our country, delivering first rate affordable and quality homes for all our citizens.

Our policies extend beyond housing and healthcare to issues that affect everyone in Ireland including cutting the cost of living, developing an dynamic economy that works for the benefit of everyone and for the environment, abolition of direct provision and improve integration for asylum seekers so that they are able to work and feel included in Irish society,Improved quality and access to education and reforms to ensure more affordable insurance for communities and businesses. It will also be our policy that the Good Friday Agreement is protected, and that cross-border communication and cooperation is maintained. Our goal is to ensure that Ireland enters this new decade with the promise of a fairer, more inclusive and compassionate society that delivers for all the people, not just a few. What we bring to this election is a balance that transcends the corporatist mismanagement of this country that has reigned supreme over the past ten years, and aims to bring it together in a spirit of community.