News Editorial

Friday 22 August 2014

Poll shows the price to be paid for broken pledges

Editorial

Published 26/04/2014 | 13:00

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Labour's Phil Prendergast is not doing well in our opinion polls
Labour's Phil Prendergast is not doing well in our opinion polls

DESPITE the rise in support for Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and independents, Fine Gael will take some comfort from this morning's Irish Independent/Millward Brown poll on the European elections.

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What were previously the three constituencies of East, South and North-West have now been redrawn into two four-seat mammoth electoral areas, namely Midlands-North-West and South. However, despite that new electoral map, and despite forcing through unpalatable cutbacks and tax hikes, the main government party is in with a chance of holding on to the three seats it holds in these areas.

Who occupies those seats is almost certain to change, however.

Mairead McGuinness and Jim Higgins are in what could be a fight to the death in the Midlands-North-West constituency for one seat, meaning the party would need to sneak the second seat in the South constituency to retain the status quo. However, its high-profile candidates are not attracting first-preference votes in the numbers they would like and if Fine Gael does manage to keep three seats, it will be after a depleted vote and some long counts.

Its partner in government, Labour, faces much tougher prospects.

With the redrawn constituencies, it was unlikely that Labour would win a seat in either South or Midlands-North-West. Its battle to save face remains in the Dublin constituency.

However, the poor showing of its sitting MEP, Phil Prendergast, and its senator, Lorraine Higgins, in our polls on Midlands-North-West and South underlines how difficult it will be for the party in upcoming local, European and by-election polls.

It is paying the price for failing to deliver on unrealistic promises it made at the general election in February 2011. The public is weary of bad news and the water charges issue has been poorly handled.

It will be a major issue on the doorsteps.

The government parties squabbling in public is not helping and the people want this matter dealt with promptly.

People want transparency about what they will be paying in our latest stealth tax, the kind of transparency that was espoused by Fine Gael before the last general election.

In fact, Fine Gael should learn the lesson on broken promises from the experience of its coalition partner.

RURAL BROADBAND ROLLOUT CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH

RURAL Ireland has long suffered from a digital divide in relation to the availability of broadband services. So there will be genuine – if cautious – optimism at the Government's announcement that it is to substantially increase the funding available for fibre broadband in rural areas.

The initiative, which could see up to €1bn of new money invested in rural internet provision, will hopefully address one of the most glaring infrastructural deficits faced by non-urban citizens. Under the scheme, over 1,000 small towns and villages will see fibre broadband laid down to connect homeowners and businesses to services they cannot currently access under their flimsy existing infrastructure.

If completed, the initiative will transform the ability of rural regions to attract investment. It will also give non-urban dwellers access to many services that are currently only available to city and town residents.

There remains some devil in the detail. Who will partner with the Government in delivering the services? Will the networks be sustainable in the long term?

Despite being approved by Cabinet, the rollout is not yet completely signed off on, with Europe's blessing required due to the fact that the move involves state aid. However, the Government says it is confident that this will happen. Cynics might suggest that with local elections just four weeks away, an initiative announcing fibre broadband for over 1,000 rural towns and villages smacks of convenient timing. Whether or not that is a factor, the people set to eventually benefit might just be glad that their slow-lane, online handicap is finally being addressed.

Irish Independent

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