Saturday 27 December 2014

Fearful voters appreciate honesty

Published 06/08/2014 | 02:30

Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins
Health Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Collins

HEALTH Minister Leo Varadkar hit the airwaves yesterday after writing, in the Irish Independent, that plans to introduce a universal health insurance scheme by 2019 are too ambitious.

That Government plans to force everybody to have a health insurance policy cannot be delivered by the 2019 target is not itself a surprise.

It was wholly apparent last April, when then Health Minister James Reilly published the White Paper on Universal Health Insurance (UHI), that such seismic changes to our health system could not even begin during the lifetime of this government.

Indeed, the very fate of UHI was always going to be an issue for the next government - which may or may not be dominated by Fine Gael and which may or may not elect to abolish our two-tier health system.

What was refreshing was Mr Varadkar making his doubts public, despite the introduction of UHI being a flagship policy of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's government.

Voters, many of whom are fearful for their future, are accustomed to politicians breaking electoral promises. They also detest kite flying and being played on significant issues such as water charges and property taxes which are integral to the planning of household budgets.

But they appreciate the type of candour displayed by Mr Varadkar.

And as the countdown to the next Budget gets under way, we need more honesty from our political masters.

Extend e-Gates for passengers' sake

TRAVELLERS arriving at Dublin Airport will be puzzled to learn that automated e-Gates at immigration control only operate between 9am and 5pm. All over the world, governments have migrated to e-Gates to speed up entry clearance, target illegal immigration and alert officials to the presence of suspicious persons.

Automated systems at airports have not been universally welcomed, not least because of concerns around the use and storage, in some cases, of biometric data.

But passengers have nonetheless welcomed the efficiencies e-Gates produce.

The Irish system, currently operating on a trial basis, also has another purpose: to free up gardai for other front-line policing duties and to reduce overheads.

But this major civilization programme can not operate on a 24 hour basis, as the Department of Public Expenditure has not yet sanctioned the recruitment of trainee civilian immigration officers required to operate and supervise the e-Gates.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald hopes to extend the civilian operation on a 24/7 basis following talks with Cabinet colleague Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure.

Until then, airline passengers arriving at Dublin Airport - one of the main ports of entry to the State - will have to endure needless delays at immigration control.

The government plans to procure and purchase e-Gates for all airports in the State in 2015 and the present trial will feed into the business case for that procurement.

But, as passengers will attest, the business case for them has already been met and we should not wait until 2015 to extend them.

Irish Independent

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