Friday 21 October 2016

Parties are failing to inspire the electorate

Published 11/02/2016 | 02:30

Fine Gael Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for her response to the recent gangland killings Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Fine Gael Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been criticised for her response to the recent gangland killings Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

Elections are about selection and the winning of power. Generally speaking, the party in Government has an edge, given that it has already attained the prize. That is why the phrase 'oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them' rings true. Given events over the first week of the campaign for the 32nd Dáil, the truism seems as apt as ever.

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Even its most ardent critics would allow that traditionally Fine Gael had two main attributes. It is known as the party of fiscal rectitude and law and order. But you would not have thought so, given its slipshod and unsure performance on both the 'fiscal space' controversy and the far more grave matter of the recent Dublin gangland murders.

The Finance Minister found himself attacked for the former, while the Justice Minister has been attacked from all sides for her response to the latter.

All the while, a succession of polls shows that support for the established parties has slipped, while it has risen for the smaller parties and Independents.

One recent poll found dissatisfaction with the Government at 65pc. Of course, there is still ample time to arrest the slide.

To be fair to the Government, its record on jobs and Foreign Direct Investment has been solid and growth rates have also been remarkable. But the much-talked-of recovery and the shtick about 'stability' is becoming a harder sell than it ought to have been.

People are clearly not impressed with the performance of any of the major parties in the race. Should this translate at the polls, we are facing into more uncertainty and the likelihood of a hung Dáil. Given the jitters on the international markets and other destablising global factors, nothing should be taken for granted. It was Franklin D Roosevelt who said: "Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely."

Our flip-flopping and stumbling politicians could do much to assist this success by doing likewise.

Medical errors add to our hospitals' woes

The news that one in eight hospital patients in Ireland suffers an unintended injury will do little to boost confidence in the beleaguered health sector.

Perhaps there is some reassurance in the fact that 75pc of these injuries are preventable; one might add the sooner the better. The data comes to us from the Royal College of Surgeons and affords a real opportunity to assess the true extent of medical error and its impact on patients.

According to Professor David Williams, a team looked at 1,574 adults admitted to eight public hospitals. Perhaps unsurprisingly the biggest risk was to those who underwent surgery. The bill for hospital errors comes in at €194m a year.

The HSE insists it has put systems in place to improve safety. One should certainly hope so. There is some comfort in the fact that the error level is in line with that in other countries. But only some, for clearly there are real issues to be addressed.

Apart from the toll on patients, the prospect of litigation and redress adds to the trauma. If nothing else, the research can only serve to underlie the urgent need for the establishment of a safety body to look after the interests of patients. If any more evidence could possibly have been required for the case for a radical overhaul of our health services, then this dossier must surely help.

Irish Independent

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