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'Fine Gael and Labour are trying to sell the biggest fairytale of them all'

Ireland is growing because of the skills and innovation of the Irish people developed over decades – not because of a spin-obsessed government, writes Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher.

Billy Kelleher

BRENDAN HOWLIN’S REMARKABLE article about the choice facing the public in the next election is very welcome.

With unusual candour he has revealed the core arrogance which lies at the heart of the demand of Fine Gael and Labour that people return them to power and shower them with thanks for their first term.

For a democratic politician to say that the people have no choice and other parties shouldn’t even produce manifestos is an incredible testament to why this government has been so unpopular for so long.

It is also a sad statement about the condition of Labour that it is reduced to a desperate plea to be allowed to continue propping up Fine Gael for another five years.

Brendan Howlin is not a man who would normally join in the negative and hyper-political nonsense which defines Fine Gael’s approach to everything. It suggests that things really are as reported and chaos reigns within Labour.

Of course Fine Gael and Labour increasingly wish that they had not prepared manifestos in 2011. The scale of promises which they made then, and broke in government is unprecedented in our political history.

The government argues that it represents stability. We should all see this as a major warning.

Do we want this sort of stability in the housing emergency? In hospital waiting lists and emergency departments? In growing crime? In the spread of serious drugs into more and more areas? In mounting inequality, low-pay and zero-security jobs?

If they want to argue for more of the same then we look forward to that.

Fairytale

There is of course also the greatest fairytale of them all – the claim that Fine Gael and Labour ‘delivered’ recovery and employment.

Ireland is growing because of the skills and innovation of the Irish people developed over decades – not because of a spin-obsessed government.

The majority of measures which turned the public finances around were implemented by Brian Lenihan and condemned by Fine Gael and Labour – yet now they want to claim credit for them.

Just in case you might think about falling for their ‘Action Plan for Jobs’ dog and pony show and its claims that it will “create” tens of thousands of jobs, it’s worth knowing that the government actually asked the OECD to review the plan. The finding? A statement that it is impossible to directly ascribe job creation figures to the plan.

The government didn’t deliver recovery, but it did delay it and make it deeply unfair. Regressive policies have meant that the majority have taken the biggest hit while the largest benefit has been concentrated on the very wealthiest.

screenshot.1449074842.34927 Brendan Howlin wrote on TheJournal.ie yesterday that the choice facing the electorate is this government or no government. Source: www.thejournal.ie

At the same time every major problem which has emerged during this government’s term has been allowed escalate to crisis level before any action has been taken.

The housing crisis today is as it was predicted to be, but nothing was done.

Every year the HSE has predicted the level of demand for hospital services, but ministers fixed the service plans and let chaos emerge.

When they proposed to cull Garda stations and local policing they were warned of what would happen, but they went ahead anyway.

After all this they now want you to believe that there is no alternative. You should shut up and obediently go to the ballot box, keep them in power and thank them for the privilege.

Well there is an alternative and Fianna Fáil is determined to offer it.

The alternative

We believe that there is a fairer and more sustainable way to recovery. We can end the refusal to tackle mounting chaos in services, end the obsession with spin over-substance and work to deliver a recovery which benefits all.

To all those commentators who want to talk about polls not policies please remember how often you have got it wrong. Only last year the polls said Fianna Fáil was third behind Fine Gael and Sinn Fein. But when the ballots were counted Fianna Fáil came first, and was 10% ahead of Sinn Fein.

Brendan Howlin is of course wrong when he repeatedly claims that I said that we don’t want to be in government – nothing could be further from the truth. What Fianna Fáil wants is to lead a government defined by the priorities which we set out before the people.

Labour and Fine Gael are implementing a policy of saying and promising whatever it takes to stay in power.

Sinn Féin is operating to the Gilmore model of pretending that there’s no such thing as a hard choice to be faced in government while also ignoring the sinister realities around the Provisional movement.

In contrast, we are setting out a credible programme which shows exactly how the current chaos in public services can be overcome and we can build an Ireland which serves all of its people.

For example, after the recent humiliating climb down on Universal Health Insurance, Fianna Fáil is the currently the only party seeking election with a costed and credible health policy.

There is a choice, and it’s very clear. You can have more of the same or you can have a credible, centre-ground alternative. That is what we are offering and it is up to the people to make the choice – not a political and media elite which wants a policy of no change.

Billy Kelleher is Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North-Central, spokesperson on health and the party’s director of elections

Read: Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin insist they’re not getting into bed together

State of the Nation: Time is running out and nobody wants to dance with each other

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