1 February 2016 Edition
In elections, as in Government, there are always choices
General election 2016 a straight choice – a Government led by Fine Gael or Sinn Féin
Polling throughout 2015 indicates that up to 80% of people are not feeling the recovery directly
THE IDEA that the outcome has all but been decided is not only insulting to voters but runs contrary to the facts.
Recent SPB/RedC core polling numbers tell us that up to 22% of voters have yet to make up their minds.
The real figure is likely higher as many voters flirting with Independents and smaller parties will move to larger parties as their focus shifts to Government formation.
Recent elections in Britain, Portugal and Spain all demonstrate that the heady mix of anger and fear swirling around electorates battered and bruised by seven long years of austerity can produce unexpected results.
So when you hear a Government spokesperson telling you that there is no alternative, just remind yourself that that is what they want you to believe.
In elections, as in Government, there are always choices.
The choice between a Government led by Sinn Féin or Fine Gael is much more than a matter of different names and faces.
It is a choice between two fundamentally different understandings of the state of the economy and society after seven years of austerity and a choice between two opposing visions of the future of our country.
The Fine Gael narrative – straight from the Tory Party playbook – seeks to pit the so-called stability of their recovery with the threat of chaos if Sinn Féin are in government. It is a politics of fear not hope.
They point to rising GDP, jobs growth, increasing tax revenues, and the end of austerity budgets as evidence of this.
The big question is whether their narrative bears any relationship to the lived experience of the majority of voters.
The evidence suggests not.
Polling throughout 2015 indicates that up to 80% of people are not feeling the recovery directly.
Why? Because even those who have managed to get back to work are too often in low-paid jobs, burdened by heavy debt and high living costs.
Our public services are in crisis, as anybody who spends a day in our hospital emergency departments or council housing departments will testify.
• Fine Gael and Labour have completely failed to address the health, housing and mortgage crises
There is no recovery for the growing number of working families living on the edge of poverty.
No recovery for the growing number of patients lying on hospital trolleys.
No recovery for families trapped in emergency accommodation.
No recovery for parents unable to return to work because of the cost of childcare.
Scratch just a little beneath the well-crafted recovery scripts of Enda Kenny and Joan Burton and you will find a deeply-divided society in which the majority continue to be left behind.
This is not an accident. It is the direct result of five successive Budgets which, according to the Economic & Social Research Institute’s distributional analyses, privileged the wealthy over low-income and middle-income families.
Budget after Budget, Fine Gael and Labour made a simple choice. They chose not to invest in services and families. They made all the wrong cuts and rewarded all the wrong people.
Thanks to Fine Gael and Labour, the top 250 individuals saw their wealth rise by 16% to €75billion last year while low-income and middle-income families continue to struggle to make ends meet.
The result was a longer and tougher recession followed by a deeply unfair recovery. And now they want to further reward the wealthy with tax cuts, the result of which will be to further hollow out the tax base, starving our public services of much-needed investment.
A Fine Gael victory in 2016 will mean stability for the few and chaos for the majority.
A Government led by Sinn Féin would start from a very different premise. Our narrative seeks to give people hope, not riddle them with fear.
A real recovery, one that benefits all, can only be based on a different social and economic model.
It is built on a fair and sustainable distribution of jobs where stronger protections and better wages for workers improve their lives and strengthen the local economy.
It requires a new approach to politics that ends the culture of cronyism and extravagance that even today pervades the bubble that is the Dáil and Seanad at Leinster House.
The real fear of the overpaid party strategists in Government Buildings is not chaos but equality. They and the coterie they represent are not offering stability but more of the same two-tier economy and society.
Election 2016, like all elections, is about choices. Do voters want to continue with the failed consensus politics of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael-led governments? Or do voters want real social, economic and political change?
Everything is still to play for.
If you want real change, then you are better off with Sinn Féin.