Honesty is the best policy, even in politics.

I agree with nearly all of this. I believe that interest rates on our loans can only be negotiated when the Greek problem is revisited and when we get our budget deficit down towards 3%. The European Financial Stability Facility borrowed €5 billion at 2.89% this week to sell to Ireland 5.8% by end of March. So there is clearly room to negotiate. However, these are borrowings and merely underline our overspending. So, with that qualification or caveat, I agree with the sentiments of Stephen Collins below. And – Yes – I am canvassing for votes.

Focus must be on what Opposition parties are offering

STEPHEN COLLINS
INSIDE POLITICS: The Opposition parties should not delude the electorate into believing there is an easy way out of the current mess
IT IS time for the political parties, the voters and the media to get real about the choices facing the country in this election campaign. Our survival as a prosperous, tolerant, democratic state depends on it.
Nothing illustrates the flight from reality more than the general reaction to the candidature in Louth of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. A political system and a media that went into orbit over Taoiseach Brian Cowen having a game of golf with a disgraced banker in 2008 has had very little to say about the record of the Sinn Féin leader.
Yet it is no secret that Adams is seeking election in a constituency where the bodies of people murdered by the republican movement while he was on the IRA army council were secretly buried.
The daughter of Jean McConville, one of the most heart-rending victims of the Provisional IRA, has drawn attention to her mother’s fate and may even go to Louth to do so again during the election campaign.
Yet it seems the media regards the responsibility of the republican leadership for the IRA’s pitiless campaign to be far less worthy of scrutiny or censure than the behaviour of Fianna Fáil politicians who made such a hames of the economy.
It is only right and proper that Fianna Fáil should be held to account for its stewardship since 1997. But it would not go amiss if republicans were held to account for their past sins and asked to say sorry to the victims of their misguided and utterly unjustified campaign of terror – in the same way as Cowen and his successor as Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, have been pressed to say sorry for their mistakes.
It is also time for a bit more honesty from all the parties on the big issues that will be at the forefront of voters’ minds on election day.
Fine Gael and Labour are encouraging people to believe that they can renegotiate the EU-IMF bailout if and when they take power.
Sinn Féin and various parties and individuals on the far left and right are advocating the notion that we shouldn’t take the money at all, or if we do we shouldn’t pay it back – the banks should be allowed to collapse and all will be well.
A dose of reality has been injected into the debate by Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, a board member of the European Central Bank, who has given short shrift to the argument that the bailout terms can be renegotiated in any significant way by Ireland alone.
In an interview with Irish Times European Correspondent Arthur Beesley two weeks ago and again on Prime Time he spelled out the brutal reality to the incoming government and it is about time that they started to believe it.
It is imperative that the main Opposition parties who are likely to form the next government don’t delude the electorate into believing there is an easy way out of the mess. That will only store up huge political difficulties for them in the years ahead, and make it all the more difficult for the country to knuckle down and pay its debts.
The Opposition parties, the social partners and a variety of commentators still appear to believe that we can go on indefinitely subsidising our lifestyles with the money of others. The notions we got about our entitlement to pay ourselves beyond our means during the boom years are still fuelling much of the political debate.
Thankfully, going by the results of recent Irish Times polls, it seems most voters have come to a more realistic appraisal of the scale of the problem facing us and are not inclined to believe in a new government being able to devise painless solutions.
Instead of trying to pretend that the bailout can be renegotiated in any significant way it would be helpful if Fine Gael and Labour got down to brass tacks and explained how they proposed to go about running the economy.
Both will keep chanting the mantra of “jobs” during the campaign, but jobs will only come about in significant numbers if the public finances are put back in order.
On the positive side, Fine Gael and Labour both accept that there will have to be an adjustment of €15 billion over the next four years, although they have quite divergent views on how it should be done.
Fine Gael has accepted that the adjustment should be €6 billion this year, but Labour argued for a smaller one of €4.5 billion.
That argument is now academic with the passage of the Finance Bill ensuring that the €6 billion target will have to be met by any new government. However, the different views of the parties on whether the rest of the programme over the following three years should focus more on tax increases or spending cuts will be a source of friction.
Economic theory is clear that spending cuts are better for the economy than tax increases but cuts are much more politically difficult.
The Fine Gael-Labour government of the 1980s ended in a stalemate on this issue and the home-grown recession of that decade went on far longer as a result.
If there is a genuine exchange on issues like a property tax, the failure of the Croke Park agreement and the recommendations of the McCarthy report it might prepare the electorate for the years ahead.
It would certainly be far more productive than the shouting of empty slogans about a renegotiation of the bailout.
The real focus now will have to be on what the main Opposition parties are offering. The initial focus on the format of the television debate is essentially trivial. Last year’s British general election was dominated by the superficialities of how the candidates performed on television and had little to do with the reality of the challenge facing the incoming government. That reality only dawned after the election. The lesson should not be lost on the Irish electorate.