Christmas present? A new Government

10th December 1999

Let’s start with a sweeping statement backed up by nothing but sheer gut feeling: 80% of Fianna Fail supporters are outraged at Charlie McCreevy’s little swerve on one income households.

OK, so I’m exaggerating his support; it’s probably nowhere near 20%.

This says everything about the state of politics in Ireland where a small (golden?) circle of influential commentators, union leaders, economists and journalists can monopolise the decision making process.

What a farce the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, and the other party conferences, now are with all the plebs turning up to cheer on the suits, who then regard them with sneering contempt for the next 12 months.

Policy is made in the Shelbourne Hotel or in the south of France where the ruling cabal get together to decide how we are to be governed.

Who was Charlie listening to when he made the decision on one income families? How could the cabinet have read the situation so badly? What circles do these people mix in?

Nobody disputes the need to give working parents an extra few bob. But why were these tax allowances not also given to stay-at-home parents, mainly women?

The majority of mothers now go out to work. They already feel that they have little choice. Many would like to consider job sharing, part-time work, contract work or career breaks. They would like to have a meaningful choice.

Now the Government has kicked the choice out from under them. And it is planning to reduce it further. The reason it has done so is because economists have predicted that we need an extra 160,000 workers in the coming years if the our runaway economic growth is to continue.

But do we need this level of economic growth? We are nearing full employment. How much is enough? Are we to engage in social engineering to support a level of growth of 8-10% per annum which is unsustainable in the long run and is environmentally disastrous. Isn’t it about time we thought about sustainable development?

This Government has failed on nearly all the major issues. Public transport is a joke. The housing situation has been allowed to reach a crisis while the Government adopts a practically non-interventionist approach.

Their solution to the crime problem is to spend hundreds of millions on jails instead to trying to do something about the dreadful poverty in the areas where much of the crime stems from.

Immigration policy is a ‘shambles’, to quote one understatement from Junior Minister Liz O’Donnell. And now the Social Partnership, which has really delivered the goods to us, is in dire straits because of the clear bias toward the better off in the Budget.

Only Northern policy stands out as any kind of success and even there the main work was done by others.

The alternative is, of course, a coalition of Fine Gael and Labour. The major improvement of this group is that it doesn’t have the PDs in it so that it won’t believe that its main aim is to enrich the stockbroker class.

There’s now a good chance that there will be an election next year. The FG/Lab group should get to work on a programme for government. With a bit of luck there might be an election in January.

The way things are going I might even consider voting Fine Gael. (Cue faint).