Taoiseach Varadkar fails his own Three Tests
Speaking in the final week of the local and European election campaign, the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin pointed out that this Fine Gael government is failing its own tests for success.
Brendan said: “Two years ago, soon after becoming Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar set out his vision of a Republic of Opportunity. He set out three principles: a fair chance in life for everyone, especially children; that every part of the country has the opportunity to share in our prosperity; and second chances for people who need them.
“Two years’ later, this Fine Gael government is failing on all three goals.
“One in nine children is growing up in consistent poverty. Thousands of children are waiting for medical appointments, not least mental health services that are patchy or non-existent in parts of the country. At last count, 3,821 children are in homeless accommodation, many for their second year or longer. Too many children do not have a fair start under Fine Gael.
“Ireland now has a two-speed economy. It’s high speed in Dublin and other urban centres, but low investment and fewer opportunities everywhere else. This isn’t good for Dublin as it means crazy house prices and long commutes to the capital. But without investment, shops and services are closing in our smaller towns and villages. There is no balanced regional development under this government.
“Not enough people are getting a second chance. People are in emergency homeless accommodation for years. Services for people with disability are starved of money. Carers do not have the supports they need. Refugees seeking asylum are kept in limbo. People are being squeezed by debt collection companies.
“The economy and public finances have given this Fine Gael government the ability to invest in basic services to meet people’s needs. But it hasn’t happened.
“It is not as if Fine Gael is universally tight with the public’s money. This government’s ability to manage public spending has been found wanting on the National Children’s Hospital, on Rural Broadband, and seemingly on the Metro too. And yet there is plenty of money to spend on Fine Gael’s pet projects and public relations advisers.
“Labour has a vision of no one left behind. But all of Fine Gael’s talk is about giving people an ‘opportunity’ or a ‘chance’. Fine Gael was solely in charge of the last two budgets, and the facts show that money was available, but this Fine Gael government chose not to put the money where it is most needed to tackle disadvantage, inequality and injustice.
“The problem with Fine Gael’s vision is that it is all about successful people coming out on top. But what about ordinary people who are not the top performers? What about workers on less than average wages, who can’t afford to rent, let alone buy a home?
“Fine Gael is trying to sell an Irish version of the American Dream, but as we know all too well, the United State is currently suffering from the growth of extreme income and wealth inequality.
“Labour’s vision is for Ireland to become more like the prosperous and secure European social democracies, such as Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. The choice facing voters at these local and European elections could not be clearer; it’s a choice between selfish individualism or a social approach based on collective problem solving and working together to ensure a decent life for everyone.”