Launch of hyped jobs plan fizzles out like damp squib

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About this time last year, I started to explore new ideas and policies designed to get our economy moving again.

Over that year I have set out a range of possible initiatives from developing the digital games sector to introducing start-up visas, from turning intellectual property into jobs to using personal pension funds to fund credit.

It is an approach I intend to continue in my new role as Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation.

I intend to continue looking for new ideas and approaches as we need every positive idea we can get, no matter the source.

Yes, I will also hold the Government to account, but frankly, having spoken for almost three years now about this not being the time for old-fashioned politics, I don’t intend to do what the last opposition did and adopt their scorched-earth tactic of criticising everything.

There may be those who think it carried them into government. I don’t.

The last election was fought on the anger and fear of people seeing incomes collapse and hopes dashed and the perception that they had a government that was not listening.

The people voted for change. Whether the public thought they had voted for more change than they have seen so far remains to be seen. The Government is only in office six weeks. Last week’s opinion poll points to it still enjoying a honeymoon, but it also indicates that the public are far more realistic about our situation than those on the left would like to think.

The public know that the country’s scope for manoeuvre is limited. They remember the Eighties and know that trying to borrow and spend our way out of this crisis will only land us in an even deeper mess.

They will be less forgiving, though, about the parties and politicians who heightened expectations about a jobs budget.

This week’s admission by the Taoiseach that Fine Gael’s jobs budget which it hyped up during the campaign will instead be a series of announcements by the Finance Minister is the modern-day equivalent of replacing the launch of Apollo XI with two guys in spacesuits shouting “bang”.

The fact that this news is followed by a squabble between Eamon Gilmore and Richard Bruton over reforming the Joint Labour Committee system does not suggest that the jobs initiative is anywhere near ready for launch.

The truth is that Micheal Martin fought the election on the platform of a very ambitious plan for jobs. It identified how we could get each enterprise agency to achieve the 150,000 new jobs target. This was based on IDA Ireland achieving 75,000 new jobs; Enterprise Ireland 60,000, and tourism 15,000.

The plan identified technology science and research, the agri-food and service sectors as drivers of our jobs programme.

Our jobs plan will remain at the core of my approach as opposition spokesperson, but I will also develop it using ideas I have set out here over the past year.

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