Tales of heart­break a back­drop for unin­spir­ing GE11 cam­paign

Bray People - - OPINION - with IVAN Yates

MY ELEC­TION cam­paign re­view would nor­mally crys­talise key defin­ing mo­ments. Spe­cific iconic oc­ca­sions por­tray the net dif­fer­ence be­tween par­ties or piv­otal point of con­flict. Colour and charisma of a cam­paign di­ary emerge from a mem­o­rable sound bite or pho­to­graph. The Ranelagh Rum­ble in 2007, Michael McDow­ell’s ‘sin­gle party gov­ern­ment - no thanks’ or Michael Noo­nan’s fa­cial cus­tard pie in 2002 are such in­ci­dents. GE 2011 failed to rise above pre­dictable set piece me­dia brief­ings or leader tours - for­get­table and lack­lus­tre through­out.

De­spite a rad­i­cal swing to­wards Fine Gael and his­toric re­ver­sal for Fianna Fáil, this did not come about through any in­spi­ra­tional per­for­mance. FG’s sin­gu­lar aim was not to drop the ball or con­cede an own goal. Enda Kenny suc­ceeded in this min­i­mal­ist achieve­ment. They stayed on mes­sage-that 5 point plan ad nau­seam, avoid­ing craic and con­tro­versy. Shad­ow­box­ing with Labour over Tesco type ‘Ev­ery lit­tle hurts’ ad­ver­tise­ments was as heated as it got.

Su­per­fi­cial anal­y­sis misses the sig­nif­i­cance, depth and im­por­tance of the elec­tion. Politi­cians and their spin were over­shad­owed be­cause of a much more pro­found nar­ra­tive, com­ing from the peo­ple. Hereto­fore, elec­tions were cyn­i­cally used by par­ties to de­liver good­ies -one for ev­ery­one in the grate­ful au­di­ence.

There was no prospect of buy­ing votes. The po­lit­i­cal class had to lis­ten this time. Thou­sands of per­sonal tragedies were re­layed on doorsteps and high streets of un­prece­dented hu­man mis­ery. Can­di­dates en­dured di­a­tribes of the con­se­quences of their fail­ures. Anger was matched by deep de­spair and de­spon­dency. Grand­par­ents and par­ents re­peat­edly out­lined how their hopes and dreams were shat­tered.

Count­less tales of heart­break: sep­a­rated fam­i­lies through em­i­gra­tion to Aus­tralia and Canada; mort­gage mis­ery stalk­ing house­holds whose debt ex­ceeds house value; school leavers with no prospects of in­ter­views, let alone jobs; pay slips with greatly di­min­ished Jan­uary net pay pack­ets. These sto­ries pre­vi­ously hid un­der a cloak of re­served pride. Life chang­ing pain tran­scends all gen­er­a­tions. Nest eggs of shares have evap­o­rated. Strug­gling self em­ployed see no prospec­tive up­turn. Ex­pec­ta­tions have never been lower.

This crescendo of angst was the hall­mark of GE2011, re­duc­ing politi­cians to face the demise of a po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. Parish pump pol­i­tics failed at na­tional level. The qual­ity and ca­pac-

The crescendo of angst has forced politi­cians to face up to the demise of a po­lit­i­cal cul­ture

ity of po­lit­i­cal per­son­nel was ex­posed as in­ad­e­quate. This was not dull or bor­ing. The ‘ask the au­di­ence’ mo­ment pro­vided a pro­found re­al­ity. Vot­ers had waited since 2009 for this long over­due elec­tion. They vented their spleen at the lack of accountability. They cut the long grass and were wait­ing in the short grass for those who brought us to eco­nomic ruin. This essence of this elec­tion was the heartache of a nation - at last, get­ting the chance to ar­tic­u­late their col­lec­tive grief, be­fore mov­ing on.

The real out­come? All po­lit­i­cal par­ties have to fun­da­men­tally raise their game. Po­lit­i­cal re­form means treat­ing the elec­torate as in­tel­li­gent, knowl­edge­able adults. Stroke pol­i­tics: pur­chas­ing in­de­pen­dent TDs; nepo­tism with fam­ily dy­nas­ties and crony­ism of state ap­pointees will be no longer ac­cepted. Bo­zos and clowns giv­ing pa­thetic non an­swers will be treated with con­tempt they de­serve. Back slap­ping plat­i­tudes no longer sub­sti­tute for trans­par­ent costed cred­i­ble pol­icy. The bal­lot box mes­sage is old party loy­al­ties are over. Long stand­ing deep tribal tra­di­tions of vot­ing pat­terns can­not be sus­tained. Voter volatil­ity has reached a whole new era.

If Fianna Fáil can be sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­mem­bered, the same can be done to any party. What may seem to have been a mun­dane and un­mem­o­rable event, his­tory will tran­spire to record as mo­men­tous. Re­ac­tions of peo­ple to their per­sonal ad­ver­sity were to in­sist on a new or­der of demo­cratic accountability. Mem­bers of the 31st Dáil must ab­sorb these lessons or per­ish next time. Peo­ple have risen to the chal­lenge. The re­sult is a pop­u­lar revolt. New pol­i­tics must usher the be­gin­ning of a fresh start.

NEW GOV­ERN­MENT IN-TRAY

Since De­cem­ber 7th (Bud­get day), gov­ern­ment busi­ness has been on auto-pilot. For­get any hon­ey­moon for a new cabi­net, elected on March 9th. Most pre­dictable ini­tial event will be an ashen faced Min­is­ter for Fi­nance re­veal­ing de­tails of brief­ings re­ceived. Toxic banks, both those ter­mi­nated and ter­mi­nally ill, will re­quire €15bn ex­tra cap­i­tal. Fur­ther im­pair­ments on bank bal­ance sheets will re­veal an ex­tra liq­uid­ity re­quire­ment of €25bn over the next decade. Lat­est stress tests on fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions will yet again re­alise our worst fears. A larger bank bailout pack­age than €35bn agreed, needs to be pro­cured.

There has been a con­certed cover up of gap­ing holes in pub­lic fi­nances. Lo­cal gov­ern­ment is in a fis­cal cri­sis. Dis­ap­pear­ance of cap­i­tal re­ceipts, levies and fees from con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity have cre­ated a fund­ing short­fall of €4bn in bud­gets and bal­ance sheets of our town and county coun­cils.

Ex­tra costs from ghost hous­ing es­tates, bad weather and bad debt pro­vi­sions have been con­cealed. A new rev­enue base will have to be con­structed.

Crit­i­cal de­ci­sions on the fu­ture of the Eu­ro­zone econ­omy are pend­ing in Brus­sels. An­gela Merkel’s Chris­tian Demo­crat Party got horse whipped in re­cent re­gional elec­tions in wealthy Ham­burg. Ger­man tax pay­ers have no ap­petite to bail out delin­quent states, whose in­dis­ci­pline has re­sulted in boom to bust economies. Cor­dial good­will of un­der­stand­ing that pre­vi­ously greeted Ire­land is in short sup­ply. Ir­ish, Greeks and Por­tuguese are no longer per­ceived as pre­mier­ship play­ers - fac­ing rel­e­ga­tion.

Mur­phy’s Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong) comes into play for our new Gov­ern­ment. Two vi­tal cost fac­tors to eco­nomic re­cov­ery are de­te­ri­o­rat­ing. Civil un­rest in Cairo and Tripoli is lead­ing to regime change re­spec­tively in Egypt and Libya. De­mands for democ­racy are di­rectly im­pact­ing on oil prices. In mid 2008, crude oil peaked at $150 per bar­rel. Sub­se­quently, global re­ces­sion de­creased de­mand re­sult­ing in a bot­tom value of $40/bar­rel. In­ter­na­tional an­a­lysts fear en­ergy costs will triple from this low point.

The other game changer is in­ter­est rates. EBS and Per­ma­nent TSB are re­mov­ing ac­cess to fixed rate loans. Ul­ster Bank last week in­creased rates by al­most an­other 1%. AIB and Bank of Ire­land will fol­low suit. Do­mes­tic fi­nance is set to rise by 2-3% year on year. By year end, the ECB will no longer be able to sus­tain a 1% rate. Cu­mu­la­tively, bor­row­ers and mort­gagees face a com­bined higher cost base amount­ing to 4%.

Enda Kenny’s first 100 day gov­ern­ment agenda is laud­able. He seems obliv­i­ous of the depth of ma­nure he will wade into.

First pri­or­ity must be to com­plete the process of gov­ern­men­tal change. 14 years of Fianna Fáil ap­pointed se­nior civil ser­vants cre­ated an un­healthy merger be­tween min­is­ters and man­darins. FF im­ple­mented their agenda and paid the price. Fine Gael must de­mand res­ig­na­tions of top ech­e­lons of per­ma­nent gov­ern­ment, whose cul­pa­bil­ity is con­cealed by their anonymity. Start­ing with Der­mot Mc­Carthy (Gov­ern­ment Sec­re­tary), heads should roll. Other­wise, we’ll en­dure same old cul­ture of ex­cuses and medi­ocrity. Re­mem­ber the adage about power? Don’t use it, you’ll lose it.

TIP BITS

Time For Ru­pert looks a good thing in the Sun Al­liance Novice Chase at the Chel­tenham fes­ti­val. A top class staying hur­dler when sec­ond over course and dis­tance to Big Bucks in last year’s World Hur­dle. He has taken re­ally well to fences. In five course runs, he has never fin­ished worse than sec­ond, win­ning three times. Odds of 5/2 still ap­peal as banker ma­te­rial.

Pat Gil­roy’s Dublin team have com­menced the League sea­son in fly­ing form, build­ing on last year’s im­pres­sive im­prove­ments. The Dubs seem more finely tuned and less ex­per­i­men­tal than Cham­pi­onship foes Cork, Kerry and Ul­ster coun­ties. 6/4 is a fair price about them lift­ing the Divi­sion 1 League Ti­tle.

This time there was no prospect of buy­ing votes. The po­lit­i­cal class had to lis­ten this time.

FG's sin­gu­lar aim in the GE2011 cam­paign was not to drop the ball or con­cede an own goal. Enda Kenny suc­ceeded in this min­i­mal­ist achieve­ment.

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