Wednesday 19 June 2019

Deirdre Conroy: The people have spoken and it's time for a woman to lead us into a bright new future

'Borgen' star Sidse Babett Knudsen
'Borgen' star Sidse Babett Knudsen
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

You might have heard the name of the TV series 'Borgen' being dropped recently. I haven't seen it myself, but it is set in Denmark and is about a female prime minister governing the country with nine separate and diverse political parties. There are few similarities between Scandinavian culture and ours - despite the regular suggestions we should copy their health and welfare services. I'd like to see the Anti Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit (AAA-PBP) encourage our unemployed to forfeit €1,500 of their assets to claim benefits, as they must do in Denmark.

Although I do share the AAA-PBP's frustration about the unseemly haste in which water meters were installed outside every house in the country, what I don't understand is the focus on water charges instead of the property tax, which is an outrageous imposition on the unemployed and elderly.

Just because your home has a market value and you have spent your entire income on repayments, does not mean you can afford to pay any more tax. The pressure on elderly people in the suburbs to pay this tax is obscene.

A swift abolition of the property tax and a standard contribution to water maintenance, with a waiver for unwaged, would diminish antipathy towards the larger parties, so they could get on with governing. Reinstating medical cards to long-term ill patients will help those who can least afford the swingeing cuts of the last five years. To pay for this, there would have to be a wealth tax and very probably a rise in our corporate tax. Will that hurt individuals? I think not.

Fine Gael TDs clapping themselves on the back for getting the recovery going was a big mistake. The easy targets paid for the bailout, not some government strategy. Taking more money from your pay packet and your bank account and fining you if you didn't pay up - that's how the workers paid for the banks' spending spree. The individuals who went on a property-buying binge and left the country are not worried about water charges or the property tax.

Change has come, the election result reflects the people's choice. For now. The gap that Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil created between the most well-off and the least advantaged in society has been filled by aggressive activists united against everything the last two governments stood for. But there is nothing in the Sinn Féin or AAA-PBP manifestos that would make me want to live and work in this country if either of them ever got into power. So, as a matter of urgency, we need the regeneration of our parliament by the new Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil candidates we chose over the outgoing ones.

They should step up and shape a new parliament, one that functions for all in this State. Fianna Fáil has not been forgiven for the recession; Fine Gael has not been rewarded for an unrecognisable recovery. But between the two, the majority of the electorate sees more stability in them than with a radical Left government.

Now is not the time for Fianna Fáil to horse-trade, but it is time for Enda Kenny to step down. If he was a premier league manager he would be gone by now. For a Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael pact to be effective, we need a leader who can work with both parties. A person of substance with a track record in working with inner city communities, who has introduced legislation for the most vulnerable in society, who has the competence to take on a battleground and oversee a smooth transition.

Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael) gained a degree in political science from the London School of Economics, chaired the National Women's Council of Ireland for four years before being elected to the Dáil in 1992. She survived all the political ups and downs as a working mother. Constance Markiewicz joined Fianna Fáil on its foundation in 1926 and died five months later in 1927. If the ghost of Irish politics is laid to rest through a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael coalition, who better to lead it than another stalwart woman.

Deirdre Conroy is not affiliated to any party

Irish Independent

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