Tuesday 27 September 2016

The recovery - not the recession - has sharpened up our class divide

Published 01/03/2016 | 02:30

'This time, the mantra of ‘recovery’ grated on those who had not yet felt the benefits of growth'
'This time, the mantra of ‘recovery’ grated on those who had not yet felt the benefits of growth'

In the end, it was about the recovery - or, more accurately, the recovery that had failed to arrive for many people.

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As long as the bulk of people were facing that similar fate, they could see a reason for providing the Fine Gael and Labour Government with another majority.

Back in 2011, the country was largely united in frustration and anger at the economic crash - and anger directed at the Fianna Fáil administration of the time.

The recession had galvanised people. But this time, the mantra of 'recovery' grated on those who had not yet felt the benefits of growth. The divide between the haves and the have-nots made the voting extremely disparate.

Part of the explanation for the fall of Fine Gael and Labour at the weekend is the anger of low-skilled people trying to get back to work.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan had good reason to trumpet the fall in unemployment - from 15.2pc at its worst in 2012 to above 8pc and falling. That, combined with figures on a deficit under control and inroads on longer-term debt, was impressive.

But drill in a little further. The quarterly jobs figures published before the election actually hid some bad news.

The number of jobs for men with primary education only was still down by two-thirds on the level before the economic crash in 2008.

The story is only a little better for those with limited second-level attainment, where jobs for those with a Junior Certificate are at half the level of before the crash.

The pre-election surveys, again buried deep in the details, showed us that support for Sinn Féin is at its strongest among these economic groups. The same can be said for AAA-PBP.

By contrast, those same surveys showed that the support Fine Gael and Labour had was strongest in the so-called 'AB' or better-off sectors of society. They were the ones with the skills to hang on to jobs.

Now may not be a good time to heap woe upon the (now caretaker) government parties. But it is also clear that the established parties had strongest support among older voters.

Mr Kenny, at his final rally, laid great stress on efforts to bring young emigrants home. However, that may not help his party's longer-term prospects.

The strongest elements on the hard Left, AAA-PBP, rightly suspect that Sinn Féin left-wing stand is really a matter of convenience for the moment.

Meanwhile, even the AAA-PBP struggled to make common cause all of the time - and may well split.

The PBP element of the alliance could sign up to the broad platform Right2Change.

The AAA elements, including Paul Murphy, stayed aloof because of the presence of strong Sinn Féin rivals in key constituencies.

In 2011, the United Left Alliance of just five TDs quickly imploded.

Irish Independent

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