Editorial: Business of Government delayed for long enough
Published 07/07/2014 | 02:30
The democratic process does take time and we have to accept that. But it is not being churlish or overly demanding to point out that the business of government has been in abeyance for more than two months now. The run-in to the local and European elections on May 23 took a lot of our senior politicians away from Leinster House and various government departments for the necessary business of campaigning. Days after the outcome of those elections, the Labour Party began their long internal dialogue with the drawn-out business of choosing a new leader and deputy leader.
The upshot is that Government has been disrupted for all of May and June. And with the talks starting today on re-orienting Coalition Government priorities, and the intriguing business of picking a new Cabinet to follow, we can say confidently that very little government business will be done this coming week either.
The coming days will be meat and drink for people who love their politics. But beyond intrigue and politicking lies some very serious business for all our citizens. The country is still broke and the Government is still borrowing to meet day-to-day needs. There is a huge over-hang in long-term debt – and not just the bank debt. There are serious problems to be addressed in our health and education systems, to name but a few pressing sectors. We need solid reliable government to help us re-order our affairs and drive the economy definitively out of recession. We need continuity of government. The very last thing we need is an untimely general election.
So this is in the nature of an appeal on behalf of all our citizens addressed directly to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the new Tanaiste Joan Burton: please put together a new set of government priorities quickly. Please then announce the best new government team you can. And last, but very far from least, please get back to work.
The citizens of this country have suffered many hardships to bring us to the threshold of economic recovery. They deserve nothing less than a fully committed and functioning government working on their behalf. It is now high time for Fine Gael and Labour to stop the business of politicking and get back to the business of government.
Welfare of children must be paramount
IT GIVES us no great pleasure to confirm statistically that Irish parents are paying some of the highest childcare rates in the European Union. A new report by the EU statistical service, Eurostat, tells us that childcare rates are highest in Ireland, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom. That must be borne in mind in any discussion about the future of child benefit payments.
In reality, the increases in child benefit payments over the past decade were something of an Irish solution to an Irish problem. It is heartening to hear suggestions that a re-orienting of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition priorities this week may well involve an initiative on childcare. This would be very welcome and necessary for young couples who need two incomes to meet high housing costs. We must also remember the reality that young working mothers, particularly, are often effectively losing money to pay for childcare as a means of keeping a future foothold in a difficult work market.
Another disturbing feature, which comes to light today, is that Ireland is one of the few EU countries where no formal training or education is required to work in childcare or early education. This is a disturbing piece of news, which once again raises questions about how genuine we all are about our children's welfare.
The previous Children's Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, promised action on this issue after disturbing revelations precisely a year ago about poor standards and problems with creches in the Dublin area. We look forward to her successor, Charlie Flanagan, delivering on this matter sooner rather than later.