Need for Patriotic Rather than Political Response to Economic Crisis
Some may say it is naive of Opposition politicians to suggest that now is a time when we must put aside the old fashioned confrontational, adversarial politics of old and replace it, albeit temporarily, with a constructive engagement with the Government and the Minister for Finance. I don’t consider myself to be naive, but I do believe that politicians on both sides of the Dail chamber need to start putting the country first.
We all know that Fianna Fail has made a dog’s dinner of our economy, our society and the lack of faith in politics generally in this country. I contend, however, that it is pointless repeating this mantra of blame. Our people are intelligent and savvy. They don’t need constant reminding. They will serve up a large helping of retribution to the Government when the time comes.
In the meantime, I think that we on the Opposition benches would be well advised to offer a Tallaght Strategy form of constructive engagement in the Dail. What this country needs desperately is a sense of optimism and some degree of certainty. This is not only important for those all important “international markets” to which Minister Lenihan repeatedly refers, but much more importantly, it is critical from the point of view of our people. Irish people are increasingly deflated and despairing. If they see some patriotism and true leadership coming from Opposition Deputies, I have no doubt but that the entire country will rise to the enormous challenges which face us.
In the coming weeks, there must be a meeting of minds between The Opposition and the Government. Garret FitzGerald is correct – there has been no serious effort by the Government to share necessary information with the Opposition. If this changes and the Minister shows a degree of openness and a willingness to work honestly with the Opposition, then we should reciprocate. We should agree the broad parameters of the Budget in the weeks to come. Major public spending cuts will be necessary, and I hold firm to my opinion that the quicker we can make a dent on our deficit the better (as per my previous blog). This can be accelerated by a serious effort at public sector reform as has been advocated and detailed by Richard Bruton over a period of several years. In addition, we must stimulate the small and medium enterprise sector through PRSI and VAT breaks, in order to restore competitiveness and growth to our business community. This is the only way we can eventually secure a return to job creation. A stimulus plan, along the lines of our New ERA proposals, financed by a combination of private investment and the National Pensions Reserve Fund would assist in stimulating shorter term job creation.
These are just some suggestions that should be on the table. They are not prescriptive, and we in Fine Gael would have to enter discussions with the other parties with an open mind. The sooner this happens the better. Ireland cannot afford to wait.
Let’s Work Together to Save the Country
To a certain extent I do find myself agreeing with Lucinda, but will the government be as open as it needs to be? Can they really work for the good of the country or will they as some have pointed out, use this co-operation as a way to implicate the opposition parties in the budget. Blaming them for the hardship and cuts that will follow?
Yes, the Government needs new ideas. But the opposition to help will need complete open access to the figures and to see where the money is going. Will the Government be willing to do that?
I think the Government will be willing to share the information. It will have a hard enough time as it is to pass the budget with its majority being so slim. The question is will the government remain above politics and take the opposition on board and not bash them with the budget. Of course the opposition will have to do the same. While they can fully blame the Government for past mistakes and budgets, they must not bash the Government with a budget they worked on.
This is a catch 22 for politicians. Can they ignore their instincts and work together for the betterment of us all? Here is hoping they can