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Editorial: 'Sinn Féin fails vital test as parties jostle for votes'

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Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Recently it seems like dog- whistle abuse has been replaced with full-blown fog-horn assaults in public discourse.

The only thing more shocking than the appalling remarks made by Sinn Féin Councillor Paddy Holohan about Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was the fact the party is standing by him.

His comments that "a family man should run the country" and his further questioning of Mr Varadkar's connectedness with Ireland because of his Indian heritage were beneath contempt. He compounded the insults with an apology for remarks which "may" have offended people.

Yet party leader Mary Lou McDonald felt she did not believe Mr Holohan - who topped the poll in Tallaght South - should resign and nor would he be removed from the party.

She said her party had insisted Mr Holohan apologise. Mr Holohan's comments were deeply offensive and disrespectful, intended or not. They could be seized on to fan racism and homophobia.

That is why they were inexcusable and why an apology was insufficient. To the credit of the Taoiseach, he has accepted the apology.

Failure to discipline Mr Holohan has compromised the party's credibility on equality and inclusion. Such remarks are unworthy of any public representative. The election is only three days in and already it has been distinguished for all the wrong reasons.

Yesterday also saw the ritualistic presentation of economic blueprints. There was no intense theoretical hyper-elaboration concerning the cornucopia. For the most part, politicians like voters to fly blind. They too know what people want only when they trip over it.

The Government may have a good news story to sell on the economy; but whether you buy into it pretty much depends on whether you own a home; or whether you are clinging on, desperately surfing the wave of rising rents. Those struggling to pay for childcare and education are also likely to be feeling outside the circle of comfort.

And so the story of the now seldom-mentioned "squeezed middle" - they haven't gone away, you know - comes back into play.

The balance of haves and have-nots is still lop-sided. How the parties and Independents address this will be critical in terms of who gets to form a government.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said his party wanted to tackle problems such as homelessness. Though scant on detail, he also pledged plans would be heavily tilted towards increasing spending.

Fine Gael, anxious to keep the spotlight on its Brexit success, was also showcasing plans for: higher wages, tax cuts, record levels of investment, and a bigger and better-paid public.

That all this might be achieved while still running a surplus in the public finances does point to a story of success. But the real test will be in enabling more voters to become stakeholders in that success.

Irish Independent