Monday 26 September 2016

Coalition parties not a great ad for marriage

Published 16/05/2015 | 02:30

The revelation that Leo Varadkar has been forced out of RTÉ’s final television debate ahead of next Friday’s equality vote, in a spat between Fine Gael and the Labour Party, might be laughable were so much not at stake
The revelation that Leo Varadkar has been forced out of RTÉ’s final television debate ahead of next Friday’s equality vote, in a spat between Fine Gael and the Labour Party, might be laughable were so much not at stake

Coalitions, unlike marriages, are probably not made in Heaven, nonetheless an unseemly squabble in the midst of a knife-edge referendum could not be more unfortunate.

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As things stand, the Government is walking a tightrope in driving home its case for a 'Yes' vote.

Shooting themselves in the foot during such a delicate balancing act does not inspire confidence.

There is always tension between government partners but it shouldn't be beyond them to spare the public this latest bad-tempered "domestic".

The revelation that Leo Varadkar has been forced out of RTÉ's final television debate ahead of next Friday's equality vote, in a spat between Fine Gael and the Labour Party, might be laughable were so much not at stake.

Senior Labour figures were apparently less than gruntled when they learned that the Health Minister was due to appear. According to sources, there was an informal agreement between both parties that Fine Gael ministers would represent the Government in two live RTÉ television debates, while Labour would feature in the final one.

But the row erupted after Labour discovered that Mr Varadkar's officials approached the national broadcaster last week and offered to put the Dublin West TD forward without their knowing. RTÉ, it seems, wanted to stick with Mr Varadkar, but Labour was having none of it.

Labour argues that one can get too much of a good thing, and that, as Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Coveney have already turned up on prime-time slots, it was time to give their man a run.

Taken in isolation, this latest "imbroglio" might be dismissed as another storm in a tea cup. But it is not in isolation: it comes in the same week that it was announced that funding to Accord was to be cut, and then there was the row over photographs of gardaí supporting the Yes side.

Internecine squabbles and heated exchanges are part of political life. However, the whole thrust of the Government campaign has been built on presenting a united front.

It doesn't exactly send out a very positive message if the Government partners cannot even agree on the ground rules on how best to present their own case.

Broadband dispute will damage our economy

Somebody once said that technology is akin to an Old Testament God, there are a lot of rules and no mercy. It may at times be troublesome, but connection and top communications are vital to a modern economy, especially one that was recently brought to its knees.

Thus the news that 100,000 people in towns around the country are being deprived of high-speed broadband services because of a "technical" row between Eircom and rival operators almost beggars belief.

It comes when the country is still desperate to encourage industry and attract foreign investment. The telecoms regulator is urgently trying to resolve the dispute.

The Government must also act as swiftly as possible to guarantee that homes and businesses are re-connected as fast as possible. "It's just pot luck depending on what street you're on here," said Neill O'Neill, president of Westport's Chamber of Commerce. This is not good enough. BT, which has challenged Eircom's technical plans, said that the row was about getting standards right.

A secure national network is an absolute necessity to sustain jobs and create new ones in the future.

Irish Independent

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