Thursday 27 October 2016

Editorial: Politics killing optimistic spirit

Published 03/08/2014 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and (inset) new Tanaiste Joan Burton
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and (inset) new Tanaiste Joan Burton

Today's Millward Brown poll reveals that after years of the dead hand of austerity, the voters are timorously preparing to embrace a new spirit of optimism. Such news should come as manna from heaven to a coalition that has been pleading, with some desperation, that Irish public life has become speckled with elements of good hope.

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Economic growth is consistent, jobs of a sort are being created and neutral budgets are in prospect. Intriguingly, these developments have been completely lost in translation when it comes to the anticipated political recovery that would follow a return to growth. Instead, a deeply alienated electorate remains intent on hounding the Coalition to the same political graveyard where their unlamented predecessors reside. The bad news for the Coalition is that the voters are not being capricious. They instead have translated too well the scenario where the political chicanery and bureaucratic ineptitude displayed over issues such as Irish Water are acting as a drag upon Ireland's private-sector driven recovery.

It is unfortunate that when it comes to issues such as Irish Water, the unreformed grey steeples of our public sector continues to so consistently sap the confidence of the citizens. Sadly, there are many more reasons for the ongoing gathering public anger.

One of the stranger curiosities of Irish governance is its capacity for displays of shock at the revelation of the already known. When it comes to the review of the Department of Justice, far from being shocked, a more honest response would consist of the admission that the chaos within is the norm when it comes to Irish governance. Were we in any doubt, the HSE-style birth of Irish Water adds further grist to this bleak mill where so many institutions of the state have been found, on review, to have been dominated by secretive cultures and a complete absence of responsibility and accountability.

This has been the dominant theme of all our scandals from the sad siren song of hepatitis C, our banking crisis, our utter carelessness in dealing with the broken lives of disposable working-class children and the epic corruption so colourfully chronicled by a planning tribunal which itself evolved into a case study into how Paddy seems to be incapable of governing himself.

Today's Millward Brown poll reveals that the systemic sickness at the heart of Irish governance has poisoned the political future of the Coalition almost beyond repair. At some point, thanks to the opportunistic politics of Fianna Fail, a seismic shift took place where our public sector discarded the post-independence ethic of public service in favour of self service. It is time they were disabused of the notion that such a delightful state of affairs can continue.

Their success, or indeed mere willingness to engage in such a task, will play a critical role yet in determining the electoral fate of an administration which today's poll reveals now commands the support of a mere third of the electorate. Many questions in particular surround the Minister for Justice. Last week, the omens were not propitious. The old familiar 'clever politics' of moving Mr Purcell sideways looks more like the age-old Irish solution to Irish problems as distinct from an act of a democratic revolutionary.

Ms Fitzgerald has been waving a new broom quite enthusiastically. The jury is still out as to whether, like so many of her colleagues, the minister's broom actually has any bristles.

Sunday Independent

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