To quote Colm McCarthy – the state hasn’t run out of compassion, it has run out of money.
It’s hard to live with cuts and austerity, but arithmetic is hard to ignore. We can’t tax our way out of this recession, not if we want to build an economy that the emigrants will want to come back to and that our young people will be able to live and work in.
Ireland can be a functioning and prosperous state with honest government but it’s up to us to elect politicians that’ll tell it like it is.
Before getting into detailed policy later, there’s some stuff that is important to say up front.
1. Prosperity and jobs come from being competitive
- There are no practical alternatives
- Whether in small business or large, high costs kill jobs
2. Ireland absolutely cannot thrive as an isolated or socialist economy in the middle of the Atlantic
- High taxes, high costs is the worst combination for a country like Ireland
3. We need to reform the Public Service and Semi-State sector
- The Croke Park deal can’t last. Steps like the 10% reduction for new hires while protecting incumbents are unfair and illustrate the cynicism and lack of integrity in the whole public sector pay process
- If we want good public health and education, we need to be able to afford them
- The health and education service is what’s important, not the level of pay itself. If we continue with high pay, service will suffer because the amount of money is limited.
- Privatization of semi-states may be appropriate in some cases, but it’s not always the right thing to do. Semi-state pay should be reviewed urgently
- RTE’s role in Irish broadcasting needs to be reviewed
4. Social Welfare benefits in Ireland are too high
- The state can’t afford to pay levels this much higher than other countries
- Selected payments, e.g. non-contributory old age pension and child benefits, should be maintained to prevent hardship for the most vulnerable
5. Cronyism in Ireland has to end
- Cronyism is unjust and hugely damaging to social cohesion
- The (accurate) perception that the rules vary depending on who you know must be corrected by fixing the reality
6. The cost of living in Ireland is too high
- The government needs to do more to drive costs down
- This will help both consumers and businesses in a virtuous cycle
7. The tax net needs to be broadened, but pushing marginal income tax rates even higher will be counter-productive
- Ireland’s marginal tax rates are very high already, and are already damaging Ireland
- Property and wealth taxes are unpopular, but they are less damaging than high income tax and can be constructed to be fairer than punishing people for working hard.
- We need to move away from a common assumption that high income in Ireland means “bad guy”. There are many many people busting a gut every day and seeing their pay packet halved before they get it home.
8. The Banking Debts are not morally the taxpayers’ to pay, but we won’t get ahead by banging on tables, not yet anyway
- Putting the bank debt onto the Irish taxpayer was unfair and immoral, but it was our government that did it, not Frankfurt. Let’s not blame Europe straight off.
- Today Europe’s main governments have a political problem, but we’re fighting the wrong battle.
- We don’t need to convince Merkel or Sarkozy or Trichet that the Irish taxpayer is not responsible for the banks’ debts, we need to convince the Euro taxpayer first, and also that if the Irish taxpayer is oppressed today, they’ll be next.
- We can and should position Ireland well in the Euro debate so that European taxpayers start to understand that all these bailouts will unavoidably pile private debts on them too. Today we’re fighting the wrong argument with the wrong people in the wrong way.
- The need for austerity will not disappear overnight if Eamon Gilmore goes to Frankfurt and bangs on the table. We need to make sure Europe’s peoples understand that we are not trying to welsh on our debts.
- Like everyone else I wish the bank debt had not been converted into sovereign debt and I will fight to make sure that the cruelly unjust effects of the guarantee will be reversed. I just don’t think we should push the nuclear button yet. Europeans are not our enemies.
- Don’t forget, we’re still running a fiscal deficit and accumulating a huge debt that is unarguably ours to repay.
9. While it would be foolish for any government to try to maintain house prices even at current levels, there are so many people unable to pay their mortgages that we need to create alternatives
- Irish bankruptcy laws should be rewritten to allow quicker and less expensive bankruptcy, with people able to escape and rebuild their lives after a couple of years and not more than a decade
- Negative equity in itself should not be relieved and bankruptcy should not become an easy option
10. Parliamentary and then Constitutional reform is vital to stop a future government destroying the country again
- The Dail standing orders must be immediately re-written to force debate in the chamber, to allow all TDs more access to the information used in preparation of legislation and to bring the government’s executive role back under active control of the legislature
- No TD should engage in any purely local activity. Any TD engaging in “pothole politics” should be impeached and suspended from the Dail. We need councillors to do local work and TDs to do national work. The current situation is ludicrous.
- The Senate should be reduced to 15 Senators.
- We should abolish the parliamentary whip system. We need passion in the Dail, not sheepish party followers whipped into line.
- Local government should be moved to a regional basis, not always per county
- Local government needs real power, and a real funding mechanism
Solving the crisis demands fresh thinking
Restoring our democracy needs independent voices
Building Ireland’s future requires new faces