| 5.6°C Dublin

Editorial: 'Election winners must be prudent'

Close

'The ticking time bomb of a growing grey vote eventually exceeding the ability of the working population to fund pensions cannot be ignored by those making promises today' (stock photo)

'The ticking time bomb of a growing grey vote eventually exceeding the ability of the working population to fund pensions cannot be ignored by those making promises today' (stock photo)

'The ticking time bomb of a growing grey vote eventually exceeding the ability of the working population to fund pensions cannot be ignored by those making promises today' (stock photo)

At the end of week one of the General Election, we have seen more election promises than is good for us. The first major issue to hit the headlines was, rightly, gangland crime in the wake of the horrific murder and dismemberment of a 17-year-old Drogheda youth.

But very quickly the grey voters shook their hoary locks and suddenly it was all about the qualification age for the State pension. Demands for a return to 65 - itself a figure produced by auction politics in another era when life expectancy was much lower than today - or at least the retention of the present level of 66, predominate. And the two main candidate parties for government are being equally irresponsible in their promises in this regard. There is injustice and inequality in that compulsory retirement at 65, irrespective of one's state of health or ability to do the job, afflicts only those in the private sector while public sector employees are protected. But the afflicted under this anomaly are a minority, and it would be more equitable to have those wishing to carry on in employment after 65, wait until they have actually retired, to qualify for pension, and extend the protection afforded the public servants to all.

But overall, the ticking time bomb of a growing grey vote eventually exceeding the ability of the working population to fund pensions cannot be ignored by those making promises today.

Of course the sorry state of the health service was too big an issue to be ignored for long. It has been obvious for some time that throwing money at the health service is not the answer to problems created by poor management. Sadly such has been the quality of management to date that only more money will keep the ship afloat right now, so the two main contenders for government have sought to outdo each other with the billions of euros in taxpayers' money they are prepared to commit, while all the time insisting they are being prudent.

The scandal of homelessness and inadequate housing got a mention too, but neither a help-to-buy plan or a SSIA-type scheme comes anywhere near the radical mind-shift needed.

Ideally this election would produce a government with a strong mandate to carry out constructive and responsible policies. But that is not going to happen. Either Leo Varadkar or Micheal Martin will lead a compromise coalition of one kind or another. And it is too close to call, which is what has led to the nervousness that prompted the current irresponsible urge to over-promise.

In this the eventual winners are storing up problems for themselves, when they would be better off taking heed of the economic expertise urging restraint. They would do well to remember one very salient figure that reminds us of past mistakes and is a warning for the future. As a nation we are still in debt to the tune of €205bn.

And in the coming weeks they should remember again that the current state of lawlessness which allows murderous drug-dealing gangsters to operate in our cities and towns almost with impunity, is still a major concern for the citizenry.

And remember also that young and old throughout the land expect workable plans for action on that other ticking time bomb - climate change.

Sunday Independent