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Editorial: 'Campaign must not become just a bidding war for votes'

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'Health is in the throes of a full-blown crisis, according to spokesman Stephen Donnelly.' Photo: Tom Burke

'Health is in the throes of a full-blown crisis, according to spokesman Stephen Donnelly.' Photo: Tom Burke

'Health is in the throes of a full-blown crisis, according to spokesman Stephen Donnelly.' Photo: Tom Burke

Not a full week into the campaign and the millions morph to billions in the blizzard of election confetti blowing about our ears.

The taxpayer can clean it all up later on. On the other hand, it might be remembered how major economic policies which in retrospect are justified on the basis of 'well, it seemed like a good idea at the time' have haunting legacies.

But all's fair in the white heat of a bidding war for votes. And so Fianna Fáil will spend an extra €2bn on the health service.

The money will come from the €11bn estimated to be available in unallocated resources (the fiscal space - remember that?).

Health is in the throes of a full-blown crisis, according to spokesman Stephen Donnelly.

He won't find any argument here. But much of this ground has been covered in Sláintecare, and agreed on a cross-party basis.

There are no simple solutions.

Without unprecedented levels of reform and revolutionary changes in practice, extra billions will just be swallowed up in a broken system.

Health and housing are massive issues that demand creative but realistic responses.

Sinn Féin has promised it would deliver more than 100,000 public homes on public land.

It would also bring in laws to enable the Central Bank to reduce mortgage interest rates.

Not to be outdone, Fianna Fáil sources claim its housing policy will be the "largest public house-building programme in the history of the State". Fine Gael, too, has a plan for an expanded help-to-buy scheme for younger people attempting to get on the housing ladder.

The present government faces a backlash for not paying enough attention to the level of hardship and anger building up among people unable to get a home.

New data from the EU's official statistics body Eurostat shows how rents here rose by 40pc from 2007 to 2019. This is the second highest increase in the European Union.

Pensions have also emerged as a pivotal issue in need of attention.

But people want costed detailed proposals, not spur-of-the-moment studio sound-bites.

Fine Gael is eager to shoot holes in the spending plans of opponents.

But the party of fiscal rectitude has credibility problems of its own in delivering big projects on time and on budget.

The national children's hospital and roll-out of national broadband spring to mind.

The Fiscal Advisory Council has warned conditions in the Irish economy can change swiftly - Brexit is still only half done.

A slowdown in coming years is inevitable.

Whatever about the opinion polls, opportunity knocks for the party that can deliver convincing solutions in housing and health.

But it won't be easy and it can't be quick.

And as Thomas Edison noted: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Irish Independent