Irish Examiner focuses on facts not fallacy or fiction

Election campaign – Auction politics gets us nowhere

Thursday, February 03, 2011
IN a refreshing sign of change on Ireland’s political landscape, for the first time in years a huge number of the country’s 1.3 million voters are actually hoping that candidates will knock on the door in the course of this general election campaign. They want a chance to vent their anger by giving politicians an earful.

But over and above that perfectly understandable reaction of citizens struggling to make ends meet in an economic crisis not of their making, this election is not only an ideal opportunity for people to exercise their democratic rights by going out and voting, it is also a chance to put hard, searching questions to politicians of all hues regarding their policies and promises. Following yesterday’s formal launch of the manifestos of the main parties, voters across the country should now apply a fine-tooth comb in scrutinising the policies of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil.

Basically, what Opposition leaders Enda Kenny (FG) and Eamon Gilmore (Labour) have unveiled is a broad raft of promises that range from restoring the economy to getting the country back to work, tackling the jobs crisis, ruling out further income tax increases, seeking 20,000 voluntary redundancies in the public service and renegotiating the IMF-EU bailout agreement.

Instead of producing new policies as such, Micheál Martin (FF) says he wants to put Ireland back on track and is concentrating on highlighting disunity between Fine Gael and Labour, warning against a “tug-of-war Government”, accusing the opposition of “false promises” and calling for “new politics”.

This scenario gives rise to fundamental questions. Broadly speaking, what people who feel they have been betrayed by politicians in the past want to know, for instance, is how much the various tax pledges will cost the economy, both directly and indirectly? How realistic are the IMF debt renegotiation pledges? How long and how much will it cost to reduce the public service workforce? When will Fianna Fáil come up with tangible policies, as opposed to criticising the opposition, measures that can be dissected and analysed by the electorate?

This is no time for politicians to be making promises that can’t be honoured. People have had a belly-full of auction politics. The repercussion of an endless litany of empty pledges from all sides of the spectrum can be seen in the apathy and cynicism of voters that are sick and tired of politicians who promise the earth, moon and stars but deliver little.

Effectively, if we do nothing more in this election, we should take time out to scan the different manifestos and acquaint ourselves with the policies and promises of the various parties and those of independent politicians.

Information is power. Knowing what their manifestos say will enable voters to eyeball would-be TDs and find out if the candidates know what they are talking about when they turn up on the doorstep between now and polling day on February 25. That’s democracy in action.

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Thursday, February 03, 2011

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