Thursday 27 October 2016

Soldiers of Destiny up the stakes in the bidding war for voters' favour

Published 28/12/2015 | 02:30

Willie O'Dea,Fianna Fail deputy for Limerick City at Leinster Houseyesterday.Pic Tom Burke 6/10/2015
Willie O'Dea,Fianna Fail deputy for Limerick City at Leinster Houseyesterday.Pic Tom Burke 6/10/2015

The love-bombing of low-paid workers and those dependent upon welfare continues apace. Surely, it is further and unnecessary proof of an imminent election in which the bidding war for voters' favour is hotting up.

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In fairness to Fianna Fáil, they have been a little slow to join the auction. They have left Sinn Féin and Labour to pledge minimum wage increases while Fine Gael chimed in with a welfare top-up to achieve much the same result.

But Fianna Fáil really needed something eye-catching to attract the voters' attention. And, in all fairness, this one is eye-catching, though one might say it has a scary 'more money for nothing' ring to it.

It is, however, worth standing back a little and taking fuller stock. The party's welfare spokesman, Willie O'Dea, is an accountant and tax lawyer who knows this terrain pretty well. He will also argue that the beauty of this idea is that it is simple, fair and easy to understand.

Crucially, he will also argue that it is not necessarily hugely more expensive than what we do currently. Much will turn on this argument.

O'Dea also has the backing of a considerable body of expert opinion. It suggests that, for all our upwards of €30bn spend on a plethora of welfare transfers, poverty is a growing problem in this country. The EU's 'Survey on Income and Living Conditions' in 2013 found 15pc of people, almost one in seven, were at risk of poverty.

In a discussion paper released last year, Fianna Fáil called for a refundable tax credit in order to make the system simpler and fairer. They argue that is half-way towards a minimum income.

It is O'Dea's contention that nobody should have to endure poverty. Everyone has a right to a certain minimum share of life's comforts and chances.

Fianna Fáil will further argue that this is their radical 21st century idea - perhaps something of a throwback to their founding radicalism and their identification with the "small man" back in the 1930s.

That was the basis of the party's strength for decades, until it lost its way in more recent years.

Irish Independent

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