Wednesday 26 October 2016

The people have spoken, Coalition must listen

Published 26/05/2014 | 02:30

The people have spoken and delivered a clear indication of their anger and disaffection. Photo: Collins
The people have spoken and delivered a clear indication of their anger and disaffection. Photo: Collins

The people have spoken and delivered a clear indication of their anger and disaffection. 'Austerity fatigue' has been a major factor in the backlash against the Government. The electorate is looking for a new kind of politics from a new kind of people. Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted yesterday that the Coalition went into government "with eyes wide open", so the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, who has been punished for a series of broken promises, cannot excuse himself by saying he was unaware of the scale of the financial meltdown.

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Mr Gilmore may survive in the short term. But the mid-term verdict of the Irish electorate will be deeply worrying and in terms of a general election could lead to a wipeout. According to the RTE exit poll, the mishandling of medical card reviews was the single most destructive controversy in the run up to the election. It crystallised the public view of a leadership lacking in sympathy for some of the most vulnerable in society. Even the 'squeezed middle', who traditionally support the mainstream political parties, defected in droves to Independents and others.

We are still borrowing €1bn a week and as long as the eyes of the troika remain focused on our public finances there is little chance of a 'give away' budget. Even if the Government can do little to put money back into people's pockets, it must do its business better and avoid the kind of banana skins best illustrated by the medical card debacle, the whistleblower controversy and the lack of clarity around the water charges.

What is clear from success of Sinn Fein and so many Independents is that being against things is now in vogue. However, while it is one thing to be elected an 'anti' candidate, it will be quite another for many of this new political class to exercise power when hard choices have to be made.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael and Labour must immediately sit down to draw up a revised programme for government and the Taoiseach must re-shuffle the cabinet, possibly dispensing with some of the 'old guard'.

Even this may not be enough to save them from the wrath of the electorate in two years' time.

Teacher regulations can only be welcomed by all

Never has there been such a demand for openness and transparency in the regulation of various aspects of Irish life. For many years, an aura of secrecy surrounded the self-regulation of the professional classes.

The result was that many professional bodies were seen to be more intent on protecting their members than being accountable to the public. Thankfully many of these bodies have now moved with the times and have become robust, impartial and publicly accountable in their investigations.

In an era of whistleblowers and increased public scrutiny, they had little choice, and the result is that we are now aware of deliberations by the Medical Council, the nurses' professional body An Bord Altranais, the Law Society and various other regulators. Now it appears that teachers are about to enter the era of regulations.

Teachers enjoy the privilege of holding 22 of the 37 seats on their own professional regulatory body, the Teaching Council. Such a majority carries with it the huge responsibility of playing their role in assuring and enhancing quality in the nation's classrooms.

Over the past seven years, the Teaching Council has been building a standards framework for the profession, including a Code of Professional Conduct, against which new fitness-to-teach investigations will measure allegations of serious misconduct or underperformance that have failed to be resolved at school level.

The conferring of such powers on the Teaching Council, under legislation to be introduced in the summer, should be welcomed by teachers themselves and particularly by parents, who have, until now, been unable to do anything about poor teaching performance.

Irish Independent

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