We must be told what politicians stand for
Published 11/04/2015 | 02:30
Exactly one year from this weekend, we should know the make-up of the next government. That is, of course, providing that the current one runs its full term, although there is no apparent reason - apart from political opportunism after a giveaway budget - why it shouldn't.
While it is popular to say that a week is a long time in politics, in real terms a year is quite a short time, given that the Coalition is relatively stable and politicians will disappear to various boltholes over the summer.
It is therefore time to turn our thoughts to what each political party, or even grouping, has to offer.
The next election will not, and should not, be about personalities. For those who remember them, the jousts between Charles J Haughey and Garret FitzGerald in the 1980s were immensely enjoyable but, in reality, personality politics were a complete distraction from the real issues and proper governance. Old party allegiances have largely broken down - people are now voting with their minds rather than their feet.
We are, to be fair to the present administration, looking at a different political, financial and even social landscape than we faced going into the last election. But this does not confer any electoral advantage on the Government.
There will be no shortage of political parties, groupings and Independents contesting the next election. But we need to know where each of them stands on the important issues of the day. They cannot hope to wait until the last few days of the campaign and try to fudge their position. Or, make promises they cannot keep because, as Pat Rabbitte famously said, "that's what you do in elections".
Those days should be over. People have a right to know what each and every political party and grouping stands for and they need to set out their priorities and how they will achieve them if elected to government.
Although we live in a fast-moving world, we need time to dissect these policies and priorities in good time, so that they can be analysed, debated and costed, where necessary.
The next election will be vital in shaping our future. Those who don't tell us what they stand for in good time deserve to be penalised for it.
Mortgage holders need to be helped now
While it is rightly wary of fuelling another property bubble, the Government cannot stand by the fact that the cost of a new mortgage in Ireland is up to twice the eurozone average.
Data now reveals that the interest rate charged for a new variable-rate mortgage was 4.2pc in Ireland at the end of February, a far higher rate than charged to home-buyers in other member states.
Meanwhile, the 300,000 customers with standard variable-rate mortgages are being told by their lenders that nothing can be done about it.
This is not an issue that will go away.
While some might argue that these people knew what they were doing when they signed such loan agreements, and mostly they were not buying during the bubble (when tracker mortgages were widely available), the fact remains that many are being unnecessarily penalised by mortgage lenders to compensate for their losses on other mortgages and mortgage products.
The banks need to do something, and if they don't, the Government should make them, and soon.