The upcoming General Election on 26th February is the Irish electorate’s opportunity to make their voice heard and to either keep the existing Fine Gael and Labour coalition in power or to change it to another party or combination of parties. With issues of health, homelessness and childcare dominating the agenda, the following is a summary of each party’s proposals for their time in government.
Fine Gael have been in power for the last four years as the dominant party in a two party coalition. They were left a sticky wicket by the previous incumbent Fianna Fail as they headed up a programme of austerity and cut backs. Their mandate was to get the economy back on track and increase levels of employment. This has been controversial as some of the cutbacks were in areas that provided very little spending but had a huge impact on the people that it affected. For example, halving the respite care grant and scrapping the transport allowance for people with disabilities. They have brought us through a post economic wilderness but did the level and extent of the cuts prove too much for the electorate?
Traditionally a left wing party, many people were disappointed with Labour as they stood beside Fine Gael during the period of austerity. Worsening conditions in the labour market with the widespread use of zero hour contracts and the introduction of the Jobbridge scheme are areas that traditionally Labour would have fought for. They have defended their period in government by claiming that austerity would have been even worse had they not been at the negotiating table. It remains to be seen if the electorate will continue support them after they appear to have stepped away from their ideological origins.
Fianna Fail were in government for the run up to and during the economic collapse and subsequent bank bailout. Their creation of fiscal privilege in the housing and construction sectors lead to an over inflated economy. When this was combined with huge levels of personal debt and poor financial regulation the writing was on the wall. They have struggled to distance themselves from their close associations with property developers and the fact that the Taoiseach at the time, didn’t have a bank account himself. Investment but a lack of reform of the health services has led us to the current crisis, and whilst they increased spending in the health services in their time in government, this was following a programme of savage cuts in the 1980’s.
Sinn Fein have a rather advantageous scheme of proposals for their time in government, and have previously come under fire for poorly written policy and not getting the maths quite right. They also have a number of associations with terrorist organisations and whilst their policies are built on equality rather than ability to pay, it remains to be seen just how well thought out they are and how far away from terrorism they electorate feel they are.
Who will get your vote?