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Editorial: 'Voters must use common sense to see through empty promises'

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'The net issue is this: will the money ever be there to fund these promises?' (stock photo)

'The net issue is this: will the money ever be there to fund these promises?' (stock photo)

Erwin Wodicka - wodicka@aon.at

'The net issue is this: will the money ever be there to fund these promises?' (stock photo)

Big decisions are sometimes hard to make. Often it helps to identify small component parts which make up the bigger decision and treat them one by one.

So it is with next Saturday's election. The choice of who to back will very likely affect our own lives, and most certainly those of our younger relatives, neighbours and friends, for years to come.

The past 10 days brought us a flood of dazzling promises from pensions to tax breaks, to help with housebuying, and on to childcare, to better public transport and even - if you can try to believe it - a more workable health system.

When you do a sampler of some of the glittering voter blandishments, funded by our own taxes, it is hard to believe that, just weeks ago, we were being urged to tighten our belts.

So who to believe? And who to choose?

A slew of opinion polls so far strongly suggest that people are minded to change from the current Fine Gael-led governments which have been a feature of our politics for the past nine years. But there is scant evidence that the desired change amounts to returning a Fianna Fáil-led government given that it preceded the current regime for 14 years prior to that.

But other doubts remain about the apparent rise in the popularity of Sinn Féin. In the past week this newspaper reported how a former stalwart of that party, Peadar Tóibín, raised serious issues about how its policies were formulated and how little say was left to democratically elected TDs.

In the final days of this campaign, its policies will inevitably come in for greater scrutiny. It has made hefty promises on pension entitlements, numbers of new houses to be built and other delights.

But let us remember that, for all parties, these manifesto promises may never fly at all as their deputies head for the opposition benches. Or, these wish-lists may be merged into an amalgam of other parties' wish-lists in coalition talks which will yield another programme for government.

Worst of all, few if any of these promises will happen at all if we hit another economic recession. Remember also that when "Finance Department costings" are cited along with various party promises, these costings amount to just putting a price tag on a particular initiative.

It very definitely does not mean that the officials in the Department of Finance endorse any of these promises. In reality it is known in political circles that many senior officials are recoiling in horror at the prospect of many vote-getting promises.

So, it is worth trying in the remaining days to have another quick look over the various parties' promises lists. As you do that, it is worth bearing the three realpolitik caveats cited above. The net issue is this: will the money ever be there to fund these promises?

Remember that you do not need financial or economic expertise here. The value of that often most uncommon commodity - common sense - will surely come into its own. Since you and yours will pay the bill, you should decide carefully.

Irish Independent