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Sober collective analysis needed for coming hardship

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless

It is some time since Mary Harney said the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition. But there must be moments – however fleeting – when the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste envy the freedom of the opposition to fire at will as the problems pile higher.

Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar have been around long enough to recognise your fate rests on how you respond to a crisis.

There is no mitigation. The war in Ukraine has thrown up a fuel and energy crisis the like of which has not been seen in decades.

The figures are alarming. The cost of electricity has risen 40.9pc on an annual basis while natural gas is up 61pc. Home-heating oil has more than doubled, up 115pc. Petrol is 43.8pc more expensive and diesel is 50.7pc dearer. Food inflation has jumped by 6.8pc.

These rises are going to have a dramatic effect on how people organise their work and home lives.

There is no indication there is any relief in sight. On the same day we heard inflation rose to 9.1pc in June – its highest rate in 38 years – an Irish Times opinion poll shows Sinn Féin at 36pc, Fianna Fáil at 20pc and Fine Gael at 18pc. Mary Lou McDonald’s party has every right to feel self-satisfied. When you are outside the wheelhouse in a storm, you cannot be faulted for the tossing and listing of the ship of state and all the discomfort that goes with it.

Mr Varadkar has revealed the Government is working on an inflation-crisis loan scheme for businesses.

When Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said thousands of families were being “abandoned” by the Government, the Tánaiste replied: “There is no budget, whether it is early, late or emergency, that will get us on top of the inflation crisis.”

Inflation could only be tamed through co-­ordinated EU action as well as domestic measures, Mr Varadkar said.

How the Government manages the next six months will decide its longevity. It comfortably saw off a motion of no-confidence this week, but the winter looks daunting on a number of fronts.

Resilience is about accepting your new reality. It is our reaction to adversity, not necessarily the adversity itself, that will determine the outcome.

Sinn Féin has done an exemplary job in highlighting where the Government has fallen down on housing and health.

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What we need in the coming months is a sober and realistic collective analysis of how best we can marshal our resources to make sure those whose need is greatest are best looked after.

The Chinese have a saying: “The gem cannot be polished without friction nor man perfected without trials.” But there has to be an onus on the State to guarantee only the most necessary economic pain is borne.

Facing difficulties in the past, with no other choice, we developed strengths through setbacks and moved on. Closing the book on inflation is not an option for the foreseeable future, but we can at least plan for the next chapter.


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