Thursday 18 July 2019

Developers must act in the public interest

Should we stop 'scapegoating' developers, as Minister for Finance Michael Noonan advocated as he went into a private meeting at a posh Dublin hotel yesterday?
Should we stop 'scapegoating' developers, as Minister for Finance Michael Noonan advocated as he went into a private meeting at a posh Dublin hotel yesterday?
Editorial

Editorial

Should we stop "scapegoating" developers, as Minister for Finance Michael Noonan advocated as he went into a private meeting at a posh Dublin hotel yesterday?

It is a good question, and certainly one worth discussing, but possibly the 'little people' might not be as quick to welcome a surge in property development as quickly as Mr Noonan might wish.

The aim of the meeting was for Government officials to network with some of the more reputable high-profile developers of the boom years who have ambitious plans for the future. This meeting was aimed at getting such developers, bankers and financial institutions, as well as investors, to stump up ideas and cash to finance construction projects to alleviate the housing crisis.

While one might have felt queasy about the life-styles of some of them, the private jets, helicopters, yachts and opulent cars, for instance, there is no doubt that some developers and bankers - and they cannot all be lumped into the one class - were extremely good at what they did, and in some respects they transformed the Irish environment for the better. It is also a laudable idea to harness their expertise in overcoming what are major problems in kickstarting the construction industry.

Certainly if developers were to turn around and now use their expertise and their wealth in the national interest, there may indeed be much to gain for everybody. We also hope that Mr Noonan and those who were at this private meeting will succeed in their endeavours.

However, a scapegoat is defined in the dictionary as someone who is blamed for the "wrongdoings, mistakes or faults of others". In this case, Mr Noonan has used it in the wrong context. Those developers who ended up being bailed out by the Irish taxpayer were never scapegoats, they were just exceedingly lucky to have a tolerant government and a tolerant people to rely on in their hour of need.

For those who have survived and are beginning to thrive again, it is time for them to do the right things and put the public interest first.

In this way, they may even earn the public favour Mr Noonan seems so anxious to confer on them.

Time for universities to be more flexible

In a world where we are all expected to multi-task in various ways, it is a welcome development that universities are looking at more flexible ways to educate their students. Maynooth College appears to be leading the way in combining arts and science in the same degree. Arts - by definition a worthy subject, but one with the least potential for job applicants - could now be transformed if it is to be combined, as planned, with science subjects, under one degree.

Students of the future could combine geography with biology, chemistry with economics or physics with philosophy. While these may seem strange combinations, we are living in a world where all sorts of disciplines are evolving and it is good to see the universities rising to this challenge. However, as mentioned in our 'FutureProof' series today, the university sector is facing a serious bulge in the coming years and there may not be enough places to meet demand.

Maybe the time has come, not just for this innovation, but for others, possibly including diverting some students away from universities altogether and into programmes, like apprenticeships, that will prepare them for life.

Irish Independent

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