Saturday 24 August 2019

Taoiseach is beating the election drum with jobs message

Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, at Dogpatch Labs for the launch of Enterprise 2025
Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, at Dogpatch Labs for the launch of Enterprise 2025
John Downing

John Downing

Many politicians love schemes with big targets rolled into a nice colour-coded, five-year plan. For some, the bigger the target, the better they feel about themselves facing the voters.

Without being too mean or negative, we must also say the shelves are groaning with these nicely bound plans - and only occasionally, some of them become reality.

But this Government's track record on job creation does lend some credibility to their latest employment plan with job-creation targets. We're not entirely sure how it happened - but unemployment has fallen from a high of 15.1pc in 2012 to the current rate of 9.3pc.

So, we must look with a little more tolerance on the plan, launched yesterday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton, to have the largest number of people working in the history of the State by 2020.

In clear efforts to address strong feelings that the West, Border, Midlands and South-East are especially being left behind, this so-called 'Enterprise 2025' also sets out an aim of having unemployment in each region being within one percent of the State average.

The three key areas to be given particular attention are: creating a step-change in the performance of our enterprise; building a distinctive competitive edge to differentiate Ireland as a place of work and business; excelling in creating a jobs-fit environment and getting the basics right.

"Enterprise 2025 is a blueprint on how to rebuild a sustainable economy, sector by sector," Mr Kenny told those attending yesterday's launch. He acknowledged the serendipitous situation of announcements on Wednesday, which saw 1,300 new jobs unveiled on what he termed "an extraordinary day".

The politics of this one could not be simpler. Enda Kenny, in May 2007, and Michael Noonan before in May 2002, got a clear lesson in how hard it is to shift an incumbent government which has low and falling unemployment.

Voters might be sceptical about just how much the sitting Government had to do with creating the happy employment situation. But in a spirit of "keep on doin' what you're doin'" - they are likely to stick with the status quo.

Messrs Kenny and Noonan will both hope they can be on the right side of that one next year - real proof that for once in history, Fine Gael's political cycle and the country's economic cycle has coincided.

For Labour, it would add ballast and credibility to its argument that it is "the party of work - not welfare". Add to that the first hints that Labour may also well try to emulate Michael McDowell, the man in recent history they loved to hate, in his 2002 election catch-cry "Single-Party Government - No Thanks."

How well the people will respond to Labour's arguments that it has defended working people's rights in government remains to be seen. But it has to find as many reasons to fight as possible. That one could be as good as any other.

Irish Independent

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