My article in the SUNDAY INDEPENDENT:
Moyross plan and other broken promises cost us in loss of trust
The Green Party leader has forgotten that in a coalition, no one element gets all that it wants, writes Willie O’Dea
The late Albert Reynolds once said that you can get over the big issues-it is the small things that trip you up. The major issue which preoccupies the Government at present is Covid and its attendant problems such as the vaccine rollout and the schools’ issue. When the next election rolls round, however, hopefully Covid will be a distant memory. The vaccines will have been distributed and pupils will be back in school studying for their exams in the normal way.
However, there are a miscellany of smaller issues on which this Government is steadily eroding trust in itself and planting the seeds of future electoral disaster. Space only allows me to refer to three such issues. Firstly, there is the curious case of the Meelick/Knockalisheen Road in Limerick. This is a road which is intended to open up Moyross. Moyross is a large local Authority Housing Estate on the Northside of Limerick City. It is the largest Cul de Sac in Europe with just one-way in.
Fourteen years ago, the Government which both I and Michael Martin were members decided that this area should be regenerated. What was proposed was a two-stage project. Firstly, the area had to be stabilised. The next step was to lift the area economically both for the benefit of its citizens and the wider community. The first objective has been achieved at the cost of hundreds of millions to the taxpayer’s monies. The road was central to achieving the second objective.
Accordingly, money was provided in the estimates and €17million has already been spent as a prelude to its final construction. The commitment to building this road has been reiterated in the programme for Government drawn up by the three Government Partners (page 9 if anyone is interested). However, despite this commitment which he freely signed up to and the expenditure of €17 Million taxpayer’s money the new Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has steadfastly refused to sign off on the project. He says he doesn’t like roads! He seems to conveniently have forgotten that he signed up to provide this one.
There has been a huge public outcry and not just in Moyross. People throughout the whole Midwest are incensed. After enormous public pressure I discovered earlier this week that the Minister is now prepared to concede half the project-presumably on the basis that half a road is better than no bread. The problem is that the “bread” ie the investment which this road would have attracted will not materialise with what the Minister is proposing.
I once had the privilege of serving as a Minister. However, I never felt that I had the luxury of unilaterally reneging on any aspect of the agreed Government programme that I did not like. That is not the way a coalition Government works. In a coalition Government no one element gets all they want. The programme for Government is a compromise. There are issues coming down the track as a result of Green Party proposals in the programme for Government with which I disagree.
However, I was prepared to support them as the price of their supporting our proposals. However, if the Green Party are not prepared to implement proposals from us in the programme for Government, I do not feel obligated to support some of their proposals with which I disagree. It would be unusual to say the least, if one party to an agreement was expected to discharge their obligations regardless of the fact that the other party failed to do so. I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. However, as the character in the old Clint Eastwood movie said (Censored) –“Don’t urinate down my back and try to tell me it’s raining”.
Another issue on which the Government is clearly failing relates to children who were abused both physically and sexually in primary schools. In the last Dail I was instructed by the party leadership to move a motion supporting those people. That motion was passed with our wholehearted support. However, since the change of Government, we have behaved in exactly the same manner as the last Government. We have fallen back on the same excuses, the same denials, the same obfuscation, to deny those people justice. Most of them are now in their 70’s and many of them have now died. Since the present Government was formed a number of others have died without getting the justice which we assured them was their due. These people feel betrayed. Who can blame them? Betrayal requires trust and they trusted us.
I also put down a Dail motion in the last Dail again at the behest of the leadership concerning Community Employment Supervisors in which we promised that we would implement a recommendation of the labour court which was handed down thirteen years ago. During the course of the debate, the Government offered a number of threadbare tired nonsensical excuses for their failure to implement a recommendation of one of its own institutions ie The Labour Court. However, we are now offering the same excuses for inaction which we ridiculed before we took office. Again, those people trusted us, but like the grand old Duke of York we led them to the top of the hill only for the troops at the rear to be stampeded in the crush as we rushed headlong back down the hill.
The problem with all these small issues is that they feed into a narrative about our party – widely disseminated on social media – that we cannot be trusted – that we will promise anything to any group simply to gain their support. The three issues I have mentioned would require once off expenditure ie there would not be a recurring burden on the exchequer. The total cost of implementing them would pay the pup (not the TWSS or the ERSS or the other aids to business-just the simple PUP) for a period of about two and a half days. Albert was right. It’s the little things…….