The wait is over. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have finally revealed the Green Party’s manifesto as the basis for their coalition.
There are 10 broad and vague areas of interest with which they are seeking to entice the journalists of the Irish Times and Independent to enter into government with them.
There are 10 wonderful areas of interest in this document: the economy, universal healthcare, universal housing, social liberalism, environmentalism, youth, education, crypto-patriotism, internationalism, and development.
As the crusties in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil shift leftwards, there is absolutely no reason for the centre-left parties to get involved. All of their policies are to be Government policies, why take the risk of entering Government and undermining your party in the next general election? They have successfully shifted the Overton firmly to the socially liberal left.
On the economy, they have managed to call for a National Economic Plan, to better prosecute their war against the economy – the Government wants to engage in debt-led stimulus, to borrow money internationally to fund capital projects and stimulate economic growth, all the while somehow adhering to the Growth and Stability Pact limits imposed by the (formerly) Maastricht Treaty. Those limits state that a national deficit cannot account for more than 3% of GDP and the debt-to-GDP ratio cannot exceed 60%. As it stands, our current debt to GDP ratio is a little over 50% and the Government is expecting to run a deficit this year of around 10% of GDP.
Coinciding with this are the IMF’s estimates of global economic contractions – in Ireland, a fall of 6.8%. It is hard to see where exactly the Government intends to square the circle given not only the impending external constraints (Maastricht Treaty spending limits, falling tax revenue and declining GDP), but also the self-imposed constraints internal to the agreement (that welfare spending won’t be cut and neither income tax nor USC will be raised).
On universal healthcare, there is nothing except for more State control. Of particular interest is the bye-line of “women’s healthcare,” which is nothing more than a nod to abortion provision. Individuals in those parties who identify as pro-life cannot in good conscience identify as pro-life anymore, when both parties are explicitly stating a goal of their Government is more abortion, and more infanticides.
On housing, there are several areas of practical concern – their intention to turn the Land Development Agency into an institution that will develop housing will simply add more fuel to the fire, and will lead to greater competition for contractors.
Rather than making the land banks available for development, the Government will instead simply “crowd out” private investors. This could be argued to be necessary, but unless the uptick in State-led supply is enough to off-set the downturn in private developments (which necessitates that the Government invest quite significant resources in a time when those resources are going to be stretched thin), the result is going to be the same as it ever has been – fewer houses and greater competition for those houses. The Government might have a brief respite given the falling numbers of migrants entering the country (who yes will need to be housed somewhere), but there is a significant backlog in demand for rental or residential properties and the Government still has not managed to work through it.
The greatest concern is the area of housing where the document suggests a referendum – the wording is vague, but we can assume that the referendum implied is one of a “right to housing.” This would entail a rather significant curtailing of private property rights and again, unless the Government drastically improves State-led supply then the result will be an exodus of landlords from the rental market and upward pressures on rents.
The “new social contract” section is yet more fluff – promising gender equality and promising to promote women into decision making. Automatic pension enrolment and for pensioners allowing them to “retire in financial security” are no doubt the result of each Party just adding what it thinks sounds nicest.
The “Green Deal” includes an €80/tonne carbon tax (the current level is €26/tonne), and again, vague promises of carbon emissions reductions.
If you are getting tired of the word “vague” don’t worry, there’s even more obtuseness to come.
On “quality of life,” the prospective partners in Government want more public servants working from home (which is just what everyone who has been at home for the last month is looking forward to) but also “balanced regional development.” This ought to be read as being nothing more than a plan to recommence the Government’s failed initiative in the Celtic Tiger-era to move public services and departments into the countryside. Rural Ireland would be better served by allocating extra resources to them rather than just the strip-mining of cities of jobs in a game of musical, whimsical chairs.
Fianna Fáil managed to shoehorn a commitment to the National Broadband Plan into this, despite the ridiculous inflation in costs and better technologies becoming available. Though in fairness to them, given the recent spate of arson attacks on cellphone towers throughout Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands, they might actually be planning ahead for once – it’s much harder to burn fiber cables buried beneath the dirt.
Now to the youth! Oh woe betide whatever old boggart wrote this.
Among fluffy soundbites like reducing drug use and supporting mental illness treatment, the flagstaff policy is to have young people under-25 more involved in “decision-making at the community, county and national level.” Here was me thinking that universal franchise was enough, but apparently not, people my age apparently need to be mollycoddled until they’re 25. It almost makes you wish for child labour to be brought back so that we’d be considered responsible once we turned 15 instead of this constant infantilisation.
Education and Research! A commitment to give more money to universities without raising student tuitions. Given the recent uncovering by this publication of a conspiracy orchestrated by the leadership of the USI, Student Union in Trinity College, and a network of left-wing activists and candidates, there are serious reservations we ought to hold about public monies being directed into the coffers of universities and their affiliated quangos.
There is also significant foreshadowing of an attack on the patronages of schools – under the guise of parental choice, you will be given the opportunity to send your child to an Educate Together school. Given the Government’s hostility or insouciance in granting permissions for Gaeilscoileanna, and their abhorrence towards “Catholic-ethos” schools (I will explain the quotations later), Educate Together is the only acceptable patronage (unless you are a Muslim, Jewish or Protestant school, in which case your religious freedoms will no doubt remain unimpacted).
There will be one silver lining – schools that will be teaching as young as 6 about sex, abortion and gay marriage, will hopefully no longer have the guise of being “Catholic-ethos” schools.
The “shared island” is little more than West Brit toff – promising among other things to “continue to mark the Decade of Centenaries, in an inclusive, appropriate and sensitive manner.” More RIC commemorations, no doubt.
And lastly, we come to the pièce de résistance, “At the heart of Europe: Global Citizenship.”
Rather than expound upon the vacuity of this topic, I will rather just use bullet points, for otherwise the obnoxious fumes of Seoinín liberalism is liable to turn my stomach.
· The Government wants to resolve Brexit in as effeminate a way as possible.
· To promote “solidarity” among Member States.
· To give more of your money to the European Union
· To enlarge the European Union (in essence both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are calling for EU membership for countries like Albania and Turkey).