independent

Sunday 21 September 2014

New year, new hopes and expectations

DECLAN MALONE

Published 03/01/2013 | 09:28

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THE DAWN of the New Year brings with it hopes and expectations for the year ahead, renewed optimism and a resolve not to repeat the errors of the past. We make resolutions and strive to make ourselves and the world around us a better place and even if our commitment fails, we have at least demonstrated a desire to improve.

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New Year's resolutions are not just for the little people, everybody makes them, even the denizens of Leinster House and indeed there really is so much they can resolve to do better. The government's performance thus far has been somewhat milk and watery and, looking back on 2012, it's clear that the year was notably lacking in the sort of great endeavour that was hoped for from the coalition and is so badly needed to lift the country out of the quagmire of recession.

The one exception could be the budget, which was huge in its scope and breadth, taking €3.5 billion out of the economy to pay off the debts of a cohort of greedy bankers. This broad stroke by Finance Minister Michael Noonan was welcomed by our Troika paymasters who are obviously impressed with our commitment to austerity and doing penance for the profligacy of our Tiger years. The budget also made quite an impresssion on the citizens of Ireland who have been burdened with a brand new property tax, along with a raft of other new and increased charges, cuts in the Carers Allowance, Children's Allowance, health and education and many other areas.

Minister Noonan's prowess with the axe aside, the rest of his colleagues seemed to spend 2012 merely muddling along, with failures rather than successes punctuating their progress. Standing out amongst his peers in this regard was Health Minister James Reilly whose work has earned him the title of 'worst performing minister in the government', according to a Sunday Independent/ Milward Brown poll. Minister Reilly has had a torrid year, with the HSE running massively over budget and his personal finances attracting all the wrong kind of attention as well. Then there was the controversy over primary care centres, which has left lingering accusations of cronyism, and serious questions remain over his handling of the Savita case.

Such problems haven't all been in the Fine Gael side of the government partnership; we recently had Labour's Pat Rabitte reminding the nation's voters that election promises are not to be taken at face value and certainly not in an era of cutbacks. A 'must try harder to tell the truth' resolution would appear to be in order for the entire government, going by Minister Rabitte's candid admission.

With so much room for improvement, one might expect to see more New Year's resolutions coming out of Leinster House than there were children's letters to Santa. One resolution that could make a great impact though is if Taoiseach Enda Kenny resolved to carry out his committment to issue report cards to his mininsters and to replace those who are not performing. He would certainly have his work cut out for him here but, after all, we elected them to do a job and, God knows, we are paying them well enough so we are entitled to expect a decent return for our investment of trust.

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