Sunday 8 December 2019

Editorial: Real change needed to transform economy

Minister Leo Varadkar speaking to the press on the Plinth at Leinster House about his new position as Minister for Health. Picture: Arthur Carron
Minister Leo Varadkar speaking to the press on the Plinth at Leinster House about his new position as Minister for Health. Picture: Arthur Carron

ONLY time will tell if the reshuffled Cabinet unveiled by Taoiseach Enda Kenny will revive the fortunes of the Government and the country. Despite all the optics and overtures, the reshuffle is inherently conservative, and, for the most part, predictable. Fine Gael has retained the key finance and public service portfolios. Tanaiste Joan Burton, who remains as Minister for Social Protection, has made a virtue of the fact that Labour has secured the Department of Environment and Local Government.

The junior party has also secured a super junior ministry for jobs, a position honed in on a new low-pay commission.

The appointment of more women to the Cabinet is a welcome, necessary feature of the reshuffle.

The greatest gamble was the appointment of Leo Varadkar, the feisty young Dublin West TD who has been assigned as Health Minister, the most dreaded of all ministries.

Few ministers emerge from the fabled "Angola" intact.

And given the record of former health minister James Reilly in this regard, it seems surprising that he was allowed to retain a portion of that portfolio.

Dr Reilly is now Children and Public Health Minister, a newly created ministry that saves face for the Fine Gael deputy leader, but raises questions about the Government's commitment to children as a standalone priority.

The appointment of Mr Varadkar is a gamble on his unique style of outspoken politics which has, in the past, proved both a liability as well as an asset. His forthright nature and ability to call it right, more often than not, will be needed to curb vested interests and a deficit currently running at more than €107m.

Much of the post-crisis financial measures are already embedded and subject to oversight by the troika.

This means that this revived Government may ultimately be assessed on the juggernauts of health and housing, including managing the plight of those in mortgage arrears and in debt.

The conservative reshuffle will need to be accompanied by radical measures to bring our economy and society back to full health.

State must abide by the road laws it creates

MOTORISTS who successfully challenge road traffic legislation are often accused of "getting away with it" on the basis of mere technicalities. But as the President of the High Court has reminded us, technicalities matter.

Yesterday, a man accused of speeding had his summonses dismissed because gardai did not provide him with a photo showing his car was involved prior to his trial.

The ruling by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns could affect hundreds if not thousands of similar cases.

Section 81.3 of the 2010 Road Traffic Act requires that a copy of any electronic record of the alleged speeding must be served on an accused person before their trial.

This is critical in speeding cases where there is no other evidence that can 'bring home' the prosecution.

Criminal statutes must be construed strictly and any ambiguity must be resolved in favour of an accused.

A member of gardai testified that it is normal or usually the case that the photographic or documentary record is included with the summons when it is issued.

That is not the same as actually giving it to an accused before trial.

Road safety is a major priority for the Government in a country with historically high road deaths.

And it is because drivers face mandatory and potentially severe penalties on conviction for road traffic offences – up to and including jail – that the State must abide by the laws it creates.

Irish Independent

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