Political expediency trumps fair play in FF/FG marriage of convenience

04 May 2016

Speaking on behalf of Parliamentary Labour Party

Narrow political self-interest has trumped fair play and sound policy, with compliant taxpayers squeezed in the middle in the deal hatched between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

It seems to me that the two priorities of this document are first to set out the ‘pre-nup’ for how this marriage of convenience will work, and second to place the water issue as the central plank upon which the marriage will be built.

The “solution” that the two parties have concocted for water charges is the clearest example in many a long day, as to how – to their shame – political expediency can win out over fair play. Unfortunately, it is honest compliant citizens – those who did the right thing by paying their water bills – who will lose out most under this plan. These are parents with young families; old-age pensioners; working people, who put their hands in their pockets to pay for their water, only to be abandoned by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, who are now effectively saying, they needn’t have bothered!

Labour will not fall into the trap of following the two largest parties up this particular blind alley. In fact, we alone will stand up for those who have paid by insisting that, now that water charges have been essentially scrapped, that people who have paid, should be refunded in full.

In addition, the provisions contained in the document around housing are a combination of measures that are already in train and pious platitudes that won’t deliver a single home to any family.

For example it is already the case that, thanks in no small part to Labour’s Alan Kelly:

  • With continued expansion in social housing provision, over 17,000 new homes will be delivered under a range of social housing initiatives in 2016.
  • A roll-out the Housing Assistance Programme to more local authority areas will continue
  • A pilot Affordable Rental Scheme will be put in place for those on low incomes
  • Private sector investment will be utilised in the construction of new social housing
  • Rapid housing delivery techniques will significantly improving emergency accommodation and decrease the reliance on hotel accommodation with 500 new modular units
  • The Homelessness budget for 2016 will be €70 million, an increase of 32% on the 2015 allocation of €53 million and a 55.5% increase on the 2014 allocation of €45 million.

What’s even worse is the lip service that is paid to so many crucial national issues in the document.

Mental health for example, gets a one-line mention under the “Tackling Crime and Developing Community Services” heading.

Education is mentioned only once and health merits just a single line, while there is no mention, good bad or indifferent on how issues around the minimum wage or improving pay and conditions for low-earners will be tackled.

This is document is little more than a blueprint to keep one big right-wing party in power, while making sure the other gets to sit outside comfortably engaging in a conductor role.

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