Monday 16 September 2019

The Yates Anthology: Election boomerangs will hurt Government

Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ivan Yates

Ivan Yates

The Blueshirt faithful gather today for Fine Gael's annual jamboree. Many will no doubt be muttering dark incantations under their breath about Enda's deferring of polling day from November to February.

Joan Burton vetoed this option; no preparatory work was done to coax, persue or bludgeon Labour into seeing the benefits of an early run to reap the rewards of the Budget.

Some new year events have given their competitors an unexpected boost.

Each subsequent opinion poll from September to December revealed incremental gains for FG - 24pc to a peak of 32pc.

But last weekend the picture looked different. The extra Dáil days provided the Opposition with a platform to pummel ministers. This is down time as there is not sufficient time to enact legislation.

Then there's the unedifying sight of the Cabinet responding to controversies such as GSOC reviewing journalists' telephone records by kicking matters down the road for the next crew.

The Government has rendered itself a lame-duck administration. Its time has run out. Their failure to act decisively has come back to haunt them.

Once the clock starts ticking on every issue where they promise future improvements, the obvious reply will be: "Well, you've had the past five years to do that."

Then there's the fact that January and February are blue months, dank cold and dark. Pockets are empty post-Christmas, reasons to be cheerful are few.

The poor reaction to the floods (since December 4) may well cost FG their Athlone seat to Kevin 'Boxer' Moran.

Now the emergence of the flu will compound pressures on emergency departments. The RTé programme on the dire emergency accommodation for children also eats into any reserves of goodwill the Government may have been banking on.

Those much-heralded Budget benefits of tax cuts are by now long forgotten. The air is now thick with promises and pledges to cut the Universal Social Charge.

Today, at 30 venues, localised Irish Water protests are organised against paying the bills. Right2Water is preparing a mammoth march in Dublin on the last Saturday before polling day. This'll be the hottest election topic in city constituencies such as Dublin South-Central, Cork North-Central, Limerick city and Waterford.

Each day, pressure groups will leverage the election by cranking up demands for additional spending.

Childcare providers seek €1billion in additional subsidies for young parents and crèche facilities.

Disability groups are also securing party commitments for greater resources. Expect public sector unions, representatives of old-age pensioners, and regional lobbies to organise briefings to get their spoke in.

Instead of enjoying the tactical advantage of a timing switch giving the Taoiseach a head start, with initiatives, they're all on the back foot. They will be on the receiving end of every conceivable ambush.

The blame for even events beyond their control like crashing stock exchanges and the turmoil in emerging states due to plummeting oil prices, will be laid at their door.

It may transpire that the greatest blunder of Election 2016 actually occurred in 2015.

Third level too cushy

My 'grumpy old man' inner-self was fully sated when Dr Greg Foley of Dublin City University, appeared before the Oireachtas education committee.

He told it as it was. College students aren't attending lectures. Poor 'darlings' must attend humanities courses up to seven hours per week. Many don't seem bothered to turn up for tutorials. Their excuse is that they can access lecture notes online.

This coincides with up to 80pc failure rates in some mathematics syllabuses. Fail or not, the academic wheels keep spinning. The semesters stretch out and the years go by.

In the midst of it all there appears to be an inexplicable reluctance to spell out the realities of Celtic Cubs who are mollycoddled and pampered to such a degree that it is detrimental.

And while I am it, does it not seem odd that Irish graduates are almost unique in qualifying from college debt free?

For some - not all, I hasten to add - there's a hidden lifestyle of UFC/Conor McGregor addiction, 'chem sex' parties, going to bed at 4am and being unable to arise before noon.

Any wonder there's an apathy about work ethic or the inclination to get a part-time job to fund costly third-level education.

Blaming boring professors who don't add value with presentations misses the point. There appears to be a fundamental failure amongst well-intentioned parents and parts of our education system.

That is a stubborn refusal to understand human nature. Unless people are forced into something, they won't do it.

Some undergraduates are doing less hours then junior cert pupils and getting away with it. Bring back a fear factor.

Tickets top priority

Fans of the Boys in Green have only a one-in-11 chance of getting their hands on an approved Euro 2016 ticket by the end of February.

On the Uefa website you've two options: A 'follow your team' three-match purchase request, or an individual game against either Sweden, Belgium or Italy.

An incredible 275,000 applications (along with your requisite passport number) for an allocation of 26,000 seats means those opting for either cheap seats or expensive tiers are likely to lose out.

Escaping the clutches of mercenary unscrupulous French ticket touts who seem to have been given biggest market share of stadium capacity will not be easy.

Respective Irish allocations and stadium sizes are: Sweden match 13,000 out of 81,000 capacity; Belgium match 6,000/42,000 and Italy match 7,000/50,000. A 10pc average seems pathetically paltry.

Man of the moment John Delaney should be negotiating a fairer quota for dedicated supporters instead of canvassing on the stump with Alan Kelly in Tipperary.

John is our slickest operator hailing from Waterford, Kilkenny and now Tipp (Haughey-esque heritage). Kelly delivered €780,000 to soccer clubs in his constituency; Delaney tours these facilities with the minister to show how well money was spent. This amounts to pork-barrel parish-pump politics.

A pity these two smart operators (who'll no doubt continue to thrive within FIFA and the Dáil) wouldn't focus more on national responsibilities like housing, floods, and above all, an extra 50,000 tickets in France next June. Maybe the best election slogan might be: vote Labour and secure your seat.

Irish Independent

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