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Aaron McKenna: Where will Ireland be after two more Budgets?

The opposition’s reaction to Budget 2013 has been standard stuff. Will any party be credible the next time Ireland votes?

Aaron McKenna

BOTH THE TAOISEACH and Tanaiste made an interesting comment about Budget 2013, stating that it was the toughest budget this government will deliver; and was one of the toughest budgets in the history of the State. Hyperbole for sure, considering that the late Brian Lenihan had to deliver cuts of €6 billion in just one year, but it hints at a government approaching its midterm and starting to think out the game to election 2015 or 2016.

Perhaps from the point of view of Enda and Eamon, this will be the toughest budget. We’re right in the middle of their term, when government parties get the biggest pillorying from the electorate and opposition parties begin to soar higher and higher on their promises of doing everything and anything differently.

First and foremost in the ranks of those lining up to knock Budget 2013 has been the main opposition party, Fianna Fáil. It is right and proper that the largest opposition party keep the government to account and attempt to show the public an alternative path. Much of the opposition voiced by FF, however, has been good old fashioned populism that flies directly in the face of not only what they implemented in their time in government; but the roadmap they agreed and by which the current government is forced to steer in the bailout plan.

Ersatz rage

The same party that cut child benefit, raised income tax through the universal social charge, tore strips from public funding to the needy and first proposed the property tax was standing up last week to decry a government that has done much the same. It is fair and proper to point out that Labour and Fine Gael are breaking election promises left and right. It’s more than a bit rich however to jump up and down shedding tears of ersatz rage against measures that a mere 24 months ago they were rowing in behind when it was one of their own in the hot seat.

There were very few measures in the budget that Fianna Fáil couldn’t find fault with or tell folks they could have done better at. Any member of their party giving interviews rushed over the perfunctory ‘it had to be tough’ piece, alluding back to the bailout they ran us headlong into with their stupidity, before getting on to attacking whatever point of the budget was up for discussion.

They were trying to hit every high note, appealing to as broad a swathe of electorate as they could. If Fianna Fáil were in power, came the message, this would have been a far better budget for you. You specifically. Then you would tune out of the next point that comes up for discussion, and Fianna Fáil will promise the next person that they would be safer. It’s typical opposition baloney, and of course the others were at it too… But at least Fianna Fáil, unlike Sinn Fáin or the Socialists and their ilk, admit that there is a deficit at all that needs bridging.

Coping classes

Fianna Fáil wants to be all things to all people. In government, that can never be so and their record reflects that. The trouble is that beyond FF, we have a few looney parties that can’t add two and two; and nobody who will really stand up for the coping classes in Ireland. Fine Gael, the so-called conservative party of Ireland who promised us no rise in income tax, hit almost every worker for another €260 out of their pay packets.

This is perhaps why Eamon and Enda think Budget 2013 will be their toughest. They’ve both had to burn their constituents badly. They’re hoping that in two years time, with softer budgets, all will be forgotten and forgiven. Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil is making hay two years since their last budget; rising and holding a respectable position in the polls for a party that put half a million out of work and sent countless of our children to Australia.

They’re all a pack of disingenuous… Politicians, would be the only printable word. In two or three years time any promises from Labour to be the party of the poor will, they hope, be received by people who’ve forgotten how they feel today. Fine Gael will tell the middle class, “sorry, but we can do better…” and Fianna Fáil will tell everybody that the good times can roll again under them, and sure doesn’t everyone remember it was all Lehman Brothers’ fault. Sinn Fáin will eat into Labour and the other lefties will rage and jump around and get generally nowhere.

Crocodile tears

If these three or four parties are our only choices, we’re in a bad spot. There is no party to replace Labour in government or generally change the tone of politics away from the good old fashioned “We’ll cut nothing and raise no taxes…” until the election is over and the latter half of the statement is reneged upon to protect the former. We really do need fresh blood in Irish politics, because the broken promises; the looney economics and the crocodile tears are getting old fast.

We have another two to three years for something to shake loose in our political world. Otherwise we’ll arrive at the next general election with more empty promises, middle of the road and go nowhere policies and ‘solutions’ to the national problems.

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>

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