Wednesday 28 September 2016

Beware of political bribes for votes

Published 14/09/2015 | 02:30

'Since the dawn of popular democracy, vote-seeking has been about giving out sweeteners, incentives or, quite frankly, bribes by any other name. And it is us, the voters/taxpayers, who will foot the bill'
'Since the dawn of popular democracy, vote-seeking has been about giving out sweeteners, incentives or, quite frankly, bribes by any other name. And it is us, the voters/taxpayers, who will foot the bill'

Let's get one old chestnut out of the way before we even start this inevitable political auction season. Most of us had a pretty terrible time over the past eight years of economic recession. However, our political culture cannot and has not entirely changed over such a short passage of time.

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So, pay no heed when politicians talk of "no-election giveaways". Since the dawn of popular democracy, vote-seeking has been about giving out sweeteners, incentives or, quite frankly, bribes by any other name. And it is us, the voters/taxpayers, who will foot the bill.

No political party is going to major their campaign on a promise to cut the national debt and balance the books. The best we can hope for - even given our recent "lost decade" - is a more credible set of bribes that will not bring us right back to where we started from. Stand by for promises that "are sensible and entirely affordable" and will also "stimulate the economy in a win-win situation".

Fine Gael politicians gathered last week in Adare and began their efforts to switch the national dialogue back to matters economical. Finance Minister Michael Noonan was keen to stress he would not seek "to buy" the upcoming general election with a giveaway Budget in mid-October.

Well, the veteran politician can justify that pledge - up to a point. But he is also a man with money to spend, and you can be sure he will spend all of it and a bit more as he seeks a first-ever back-to-back election win for Fine Gael.

Stand by today for something in a similar vein from Labour's Joan Burton as her party's TDs and senators gather for their pre-Dáil conflab. But watch also as she pledges another step towards restoring the social welfare Christmas bonus from 25pc last year to 50pc this year.

Ms Burton is speaking directly to her own traditional constituency which has had reason to be disenchanted with Labour. There are many reasons why it is a good and valid policy decision. But it is also about trying to retrieve votes.

On one level, it is nothing more than the way of the world. We expect our politicians to be women and men of the real world, and if they cannot project as real people we cannot rely on them to take charge of the nation's affairs.

But the calamity that befell us since 2008 was in part caused because we the citizens did not apply enough of our own common sense to the situation. We cannot let that happen again. Let the voter beware.

Don't rush to overuse those health remedies

The return to school brings a host of challenges to families, not least of which is keeping children fit and healthy. Children, who are still building their immunities, pick up infections, and in bringing them home they risk infecting their family members. Irish pharmacists say the average child is likely to get sick around 10 times a year while attending school.

Children often suffer three to eight common colds in the September to June school year. Young students can also suffer two or three bouts of stomach flu during term time.

It is worrying and stressful for parents. At times it must be tempting to reach for the medicines and get the retaliation in first. But this is a risky strategy that can prove counter-productive in the medium to long term. Worse again, the injudicious use of antibiotics can prove inimical to a young person's long-term health.

Better by far to rely on the health professionals' advice and be sparing in the use of various remedies, notably antibiotics, those wonder drugs that have revolutionised our lives in the past two generations.

A similar situation arises with head lice in schoolchildren, which is always an emotive issue. We must know that it is pointless using head lice remedies as a prophylactic since past overuse has too often rendered the little bugs immune.

Irish Independent

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