Saturday 20 December 2014

Editorial: Petty squabbles don't bode well for Coalition

Published 14/07/2014 | 02:30

1/5/2013; Taoiseach Enda Kenny, T.D., and Joan Burton, T.D., Minister for Social Protection at the launch of an independent evaluation of the JobBridge Scheme which demonstrates the internship scheme is amongest the most successful in Europe. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Tanaiste Joan Burton and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Damien Eagers

Tanaiste Joan Burton's complaining about Taoiseach Enda Kenny announcing the rollout of over-70s GP cards hardly augurs well for the success of the revamped Coalition. The Labour Party leader seems to want a pat on the back from the electorate when it comes to announcing items that the Government views as 'good news'. She's sadly mistaken and out of touch with the public mood.

Ms Burton feels Mr Kenny overstepped the mark by confirming the government policy of rolling out the GP-only cards to the over-70s, once the under-sixes are dealt with.

The Taoiseach told the Dail last Wednesday the Government was considering a number of options in respect of the rollout of primary care services for the under-sixes and other different categories, including the over-70s.

"The Government has made the decision that all persons over 70 will be entitled to access to GP services," he said.

Mr Kenny was responding to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who validly pointed out it "beggars belief" for the Government to promise the introduction of universal health cover, while also withdrawing medical cards from elderly people.

Ms Burton wanted Labour to get the credit for the decision – not Fine Gael.

Perhaps the Tanaiste would prefer if the Taoiseach ignored a question from the leader of the opposition, but Mr Kenny does actually have an obligation to account to the national parliament – particularly on matters of such importance.

His mandate is to the people and not the junior coalition party.

The handling of the provision of medical cards has been one of the most calamitous and dysfunctional areas of government policy. The voters gave their verdict on this debacle in the local and European elections drubbing for the Coalition.

Labour wasn't exactly beating the door down to take over the policy on medical cards. In the build-up to the cabinet reshuffle, there was no speculation at all about Labour going looking for the Department of Health. Rather than petty squabbles over who gets the kudos for announcements, the revamped Cabinet would be better off focusing on the actual delivery of results.

Then the public will give you a pat on the back, Tanaiste.

Wind energy report has some worthy suggestions

In the wake of the pylons saga and ongoing objections to windfarms in rural areas, any acknowledgement of the importance of community engagement is positive. The level of public distrust generated by the handling of the pylons planning process implies confidence-building measures are extremely necessary. The 'Wind Energy in Ireland: Building Community Engagement and Social Support' report makes some innovative suggestions in this regard.

The report from the National Economic and Social Council proposes local communities be offered the chance to take a stake in wind farms to help break the impasse between developers and local residents over controversial projects.

Needless to say, this proposal will undoubtedly result in accusations from cynics of attempts to buy off objections, but it still deserves to be given a fair hearing.

The report also says developers should be obliged to consult with communities before seeking planning permission, and agreements registered with the regulator to ensure they are complied with. Without alternative sources of power, electricity bills will continue to rise as the country spends more than €6bn a year importing oil and gas, with the ancillary contribution to climate change.

A stand-off between developments and locals will only cause further delays in this transition. A resolution won't be found in all cases, especially where communities fear they are being imposed upon, but it's good to talk, at the very least.

Irish Independent

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