Thursday 29 September 2016

Soc Dems long on ability but short on identity

Published 18/07/2015 | 02:30

Social Democrats: Roisin Shortall, Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly
Social Democrats: Roisin Shortall, Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly

For Labour leader Joan Burton, they are "the new Troika in town." Ms Burton said the newly-launched Social Democrats, co-led by the small committee of hitherto Independent TDs, Róisín Shortall, Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly, would struggle to find common ground. The Tánaiste said this Troika's only clearly agreed policy was that water charges should be abolished.

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The harsh judgment reminds us that you get nothing for nothing in politics. It also tells us that here comes another rival fishing from Labour's already depleted pool.

Catherine Murphy argues that Ireland's public services need upgrading. She argues that investment, for example in childcare, can return a seven-fold dividend and that countries with the best services like childcare, are also those countries with the strongest economies.

The Kildare North TD cites the Nordic countries - especially Norway. The difficulty for the newly-minted Social Democrats is that few people across the spectrum will disagree with many of the things they espouse.

Both government parties know they must speak to the issue in the forthcoming election. If job numbers continue to grow, and we all hope that they do, then there will be more pressure to provide childcare.

Other commentators focus on the two women's left-wing leanings on economic matters and Stephen Donnelly's centre-right tendencies. For Catherine Murphy, Deputy Donnelly has been wrongly identified as an "apostle of fiscal rectitude" as he is a strong advocate on investing in good public services.

The lack of a single leader also raises eyebrows. The Green Party abandoned leadership by committee 15 years ago and accepted that people expected a party leader.

But it is easy to be a naysayer in politics. It is much harder to try to do something new that does not fit existing jigs. So, perhaps we should give the Social Democrats a fair wind for now.

Irish Independent

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