Saturday 16 December 2017

The key issues - Remember tax reform is not illegal, Enda

Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Fidelma Healy Eames
PAC chairman John McGuinness
Proposals for a St Patrick's Day parade next month in Glasgow have created community tensions amid concerns about Orange Order protests, witnesses have told the group of MSPs and MPs.
Water protest on O'Connell Bridge

Reform like dieting is all well and good, but when it comes to voting, Paddy is still a full Irish breakfast man.

In his case the fiscal fry-up he is looking for is tax cuts and the abolition of the USC.

The school of good economists tell us that often such things are terribly bad for us.

But as Fine Gael and Labour learned the hard way in 1997, Paddy likes what isn't good for him and he is not for changing.

Sadly when it comes to promising tax cuts the Coalition is in a bind.

One of Michael Noonan's (pictured) domestic political triumphs is his achievement in getting the tax and political cycles to, for the first time, align in a positive fashion for a Fine Gael/ Labour coalition.

Suddenly as we enter year five of government, hard cash is bubbling up beneath the surface ready for the tapping in 2016.

The problem the Coalition have is that whilst they are willing, the electorate are still in a state of disbelief.

In particular, for Labour, 'the party who broke all your promises' the history of the first three years of the Coalition is a nightmare from which they are still trying to escape.

The one plus in all of this for the Coalition is that Fianna Fail are in a similar trap. The return of tax reform to the political agenda has been the source of more than a few conniptions amongst the ranks of our Troika overlords.

Ultimately, though, Michael, Enda and Joan too know that their only route back to power is to give the people what they want for one year at least.

Then they can start being moral again ... should that be possible.

Bring us our democratic revolution

It's hard to believe it, but in 2011 Paddy really did want a 'democratic revolution'. That is not to say he wanted to set the place on fire. But, Paddy did think it would be nice if the government would be a bit more open and respectful.

And though he had nothing personal against the public sector he did think it would be rather fairer were it to experience the horrors of work practices that weren't centred around the human rights of public sector workers to flexitime, sick time and elevenses every day.

Paddy in fairness wasn't looking for much. He just wanted to wallow in the illusion that the state respected him as an equal.

The failure of the Coalition in that regard was most eloquently summarized by the analysis of John McGuinness that this was a state which was now failing to 'keep its people safe'.

It is the measure of the incapacity of Fianna Fail to still rouse themselves from their post election stupor that his party colleagues have been unable to use this central fault line to craft an attack upon the Coalition.

Instead becalmed by indolence crossed with fear FF have simply lapsed into a carping culture of complaint.

The Coalition will claim they tried the democratic reform thing with the Seanad and the Dail Inquiries referenda.

John Drennan's Guide to Politics - Spring 2015

The next election will change your life. In a special supplement with the Sunday Independent, John Drennan presents his guide to Irish politics.

The offerings though were too small and their motives too suspect.

Despite these failures and the fall out that followed, in a country where we still can't hear the Attorney General's advice on our abortion laws, it is not too late to bring the people the head of a democratic revolution.

However, after a series of scandals from whistle-blowers to Irish Water - the scandal that will not die - to Crony-gate we are in death-bed conversion country.

A rural revolt that must be respected

Be it on wind-farms, pylons, jobs, Garda stations or whatever you can think of, a wind of discontent is sweeping across the countryside.

Rural Ireland feels that austerity has hollowed out its core for very little reason beyond book-keeping.

Such now is the extent of this process Labour Senator John Whelan recently felt compelled to slam proposals for the creation of unmanned libraries.

Others such as Fidelma Healy Eames (pictured) have been equally eloquent about the murder machine Departmental bureaucrats have set upon the small schools of rural Ireland.

No less a political figure than Hilary Clinton famously wrote in It Takes a Village about how small communities are the mortar that binds great civilizations.

By contrast, in this country for whatever reason, and it is probably the sheer absence of imagination in most cases, central government has turned rural Ireland into a desert.

First they came for the pub, then the village shop, then the school, the Garda station and finally the post office.

Apologies there; we left out the village library, the cutting of turf and now the farmer's shotgun too.

Then, as a final kick in the posterior, central government decided it would be a good idea to cover the skies of rural Ireland with a Ruhr valley style spider-web of pylons and wind-farms and power lines that would darken further the lives of our deserted villagers.

Such now is the anger at the failure of the Coalition - and Fianna Fail before them - if Michael Fitzmaurice organises properly, any new administration may have to deal with a party of at least fifteen angry rural TDs

Goldsmith famously warned that ill-fares the land whose villages are left by indifferent governments to decay. It is a point that has not been lost on Alan Kelly.

Luck and stability go hand in hand

Given that 'careful now' was the defining theme of the government of all the Grumpy Old Men you might think their accidental replacements might be somewhat nervous about running on a similar theme.

However, whilst most of the Grumpy Old Men have departed to their eternally well-pensioned reward, appealing to Paddy's eternal peasant-like caution is likely to be a central plank of the Coalition appeal for round two.

In truth it might not be the worst of plans for, after all that has passed, Paddy is looking for a bit of stability.

He will flirt with the anti-water charges lot, but that is supposed to act as a whip to encourage the government donkeys to trot more closely in the direction he wants.

The recent post-Jobstown flight from the Independent alternative indicates that for Paddy, stability is still a preferred alternative to any spontaneous revolutions of the proletariat.

That is not to say that Paddy is against reform.

But he prefers to only have to deal with his politicians once every five years.

This wise aspiration means one of the key questions he will be asking the political alternatives is whether they can form and stay in government so that Paddy is not disturbed by a whole series of elections over the next decade.

In passing he wouldn't mind if there were fewer referenda too, though that tragically appears to be an ask too much.

This desire means the Coalition and Fianna Fail will have an inbuilt reaction in this regard.

For the former it will be critical so long as they stay lucky and the UK/American-led revival continues to pull the Irish tug boat along behind them.

The opposite, of course, applies to the opposition no matter what they claim.

After six years of famine we need to feel good

As Fine Gael realized all too well with its infamous five point plan in 2011, when you boil down the fancy manifestos and even more fanciful television campaigns, all elections are decided by a core number of concerns.

In the case of the next election the following issues, which unlike our Leinster House shennanigans are real to the people, will play a crucial role in the winning of the next election. The concept of national well-being might sound a bit soft for the viagra-stuffed exponents of pragmatic politics.

However after experiencing seven years of famine the country is suffering from a crisis of morale.

The recession may technically be over, but many citizens have, psychologically at least, not moved on from that strange time when people genuinely wondered if they would end up foraging in dustbins for the dinner. Technically the Coalition has done a good job, but people feel they are surviving not thriving.

The Coalition will have to generate a 'you never had it so good' factor and they have less than fifteen months to do what is a tall, but not impossible task.

It will not be easy, for what is needed is the spirit a Bill Clinton could wrap around his persona.

By contrast, when it comes to telling or articulating the story Paddy wants to actually hear, our lot still prefer moral lectures to fairy tales with happy endings.

They, or the opposition, need to cut out the hectoring and complaining, find a way to praise the people in a manner that is not patronising and tell the voters where they plan we will be in five years time.

Oh and Enda, for your own sake Ireland the new Singapore is not it.

Sunday Independent

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