Aaron McKenna Ireland used to have an opposition Where is it now

first_imgTHERE WAS CONTRASTING jobs news during the week that about sums up the Irish economy: The Kerry Group announced the creation of 800 new jobs over the next three years, while Olhausen closed their remaining pork plants with a loss of 160 jobs, in a company that had already shed twice that since the recession began.The Kerry Group is a world class exporter. Olhausen was focused on the domestic market. The ESRI released a report recently predicting that GDP, a measure of the entire economy including the export sector, would grow by 1.8 per cent this year; and GNP, a more accurate reflection of the domestic economy, would shrink by 0.2 per cent.Most of the major jobs announcements of the past years have been in export-focused companies. We know how to do export very well: we attract companies, foreign and domestic, to invest their money in Ireland with low taxes and flexible, business friendly policies and the promise of an adaptable, innovative workforce.Compare and contrast this approach to our internal approach. We’re all but physically taxing the oxygen out of the country, have policies that seem designed to discourage entrepreneurialism and reform of state spending is a ridiculously dilatory and intransigent process.For all the positive jobs announcements that warrant the presence of half the cabinet for the photocall, the Central Statistics Office’s Quarterly National Household Survey shows a net loss of 37,700 jobs since this government came to power. All those export jobs just can’t make up for the loss in spending power suffered by ordinary people and families through increased income, sales, property and other taxes and charges.Kool-AidWe used to have an opposition in the Dáil who warned of the need for swift government reform; a cull of the quangos; and how tax increases harm an economy twice as much as spending cuts. Fine Gael was the name of the party, and a stronger economy was the name of the game.They seem to have drank the Kool-Aid once entering the plush, protected and isolated inner sanctum of government. They’ve left a huge gap in the market for sensible economic policies and some honesty and integrity in politics and governance.The truth is that we really don’t have a sensible opposition these days, and there is a huge gap in the market for one.Sinn Féin are, distaste about their past aside, a bunch of hardcore populists who will say one thing here while doing another in the North, and softening their cough on their far left wing policies to try and gain ground.Fianna Fáil are, well, Fianna Fáil. They recently came out with their “Right Tax, Wrong Time” campaign against the property tax. It’s a bit rich, considering how they bankrupted the country, brought us to the troika and signed the agreement to introduce such a tax. Their attempt to distance themselves from their policies and with a leader who was in the bunker with Brian Cowen till near the very end is a bit more than rich. As for honesty and integrity…RottenThe only honest opposition are the Socialists and their brethren of the left, whom we know are straightforward Communists without an appreciation for history and – in any event – seem too preoccupied with the obligatory split these days to worry about running the country.We used to have the Progressive Democrats, who once upon a time were a party about better run government and lower taxes. Unfortunately they morphed into a personality cult around a few electable folks and sat pretty in a rotten government at a time of massively wasteful spending increases and more than dubious tribunal goings on.We need a new party in Irish politics, one large enough to make a difference but small enough to not have to be all things to all people. A party focused on speedy reform, smaller and better run government and an economic solution to the crisis that relies on people spending their own money rather than ever increasing debt bills to fuel waste and mismanagement.BurnedYears of constant tax increases have left us well behind growth and unemployment targets. Meanwhile a stroke of a pen can increase your income tax but it takes weeks and months of careful negotiation before a civil servant will answer a telephone or stamp post without being paid a special allowance for it.This dichotomy of left and right in government is getting nothing of substance done bar making indiscriminate cuts and introducing scorched earth taxes. Meanwhile, ordinary people are feeling burned by dishonest politicians and go-nowhere policies.We don’t need Fianna Fáil to try and reinvent itself – we know that if they got back in in a few years, it’d be straight back to business as usual. We certainly don’t need a populist left wing party like Sinn Fein, who still aren’t quite proficient with a calculator.What we need is a party that understands that jacking up VAT, introducing property taxes and having income tax that hits 50 per cent before the average industrial wage in an economy that is hardly growing is a bad, bad idea. We need a party that will fight that corner, that will espouse the idea that a shorter recession is the one we grow our way out of, not the one we constantly fight to keep ahead of with more and more debt.People who have had nothing to do with politics but who are fed up and, most of all, disappointed at the poor performance of the past half decade need to start thinking that a change is, collectively, theirs to create.We need to bridge that gap between what we want and need and what the insiders of Dublin 2 are delivering to us. That starts with real opposition to what passes for policies in this government.Aaron McKenna is a businessman and a columnist for TheJournal.ie. He is also involved in activism in his local area. You can find out more about him at aaronmckenna.com or follow him on Twitter @aaronmckenna.Read: More columns from Aaron McKenna on TheJournal.ie>last_img

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