Friday, October 17, 2008

Ireland-Government rocked by groundswell of opposition to medical card proposals forced to backtrack

No sooner had Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan completed his budget speech than Government deputies from FF, Greens and PDs broke out in thunderous applause. However opposition deputies on the FG and Labour benches had already spotted serious flaws in some of the proposed health and education cutbacks.

The Government's decision to end universal medical card provision for people over 70 lit the fuse. The opposition in the Dail was apoplectic with rage. Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore spearheaded the attack. Yet Brian Cowen, Mary Harney and Mary Coughlan strongly defended the proposal. Government TDs were slow to react.

Grey voters vented their spleen with a display of ferocity seldom seen in Irish politics. Many elderly people have been stunned and frightened by the proposals. All organs of the media were utilized. Now many backbench FF, Green and Independent TDs supporting the government have begun to rebel. Independents such as Michael Lowry and Finian McGrath have come out strongly in opposition
Today Wicklow TD Joe Behan resigned from the Fianna Fáil party in protest at the Budget citing not alone cutbacks in health but also in education. Mr Behan has accused the Cabinet of being out of touch with the electorate.

Just one question for many of these backbench FF deputies. Why did they not shout stop when the FF/PD government allowed public expenditure to rocket by 25% in the two years leading up to the 2007 general election. The property boom bubble supported this growth in public expenditure. It was clearly unsustainable. Many of these deputies won their seats on the back of benign budgets. It is possible that the outgoing government would have been re-elected without such a massive growth in public expenditure.

Four years ago Richard Bruton FG Finance spokesman warned of the unsustainability of the public expenditure splurge and spoke continuously about the inevitable consequences.. Economists such as George Lee, Dr Alan Ahearne and David McWilliams warned about a property boom crash. They were accused of talking down the economy.

The present Medical Card proposals would not get through the Dail. Any effort to force them through would tear the FF Party asunder. The Independents and Greens would probably desert. Tonight on RTE Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced that he would set up a process to deal with the problem. The Government intends to try and renegotiate with the IMO with a view to securing savings.

It is likely that the proposals will be substantially amended or parked. However FF backbenchers, Green Party and Independent TDs had better get used to bad news. Indeed a supplementary budget cannot be ruled out in July 2009 (after the Local Elections) to arrest the slide in the public finances. In addition there may be at least two more harsh budgets one in December 2009 and the other in December 2010. The Government has scored a huge political own goal. Happy are those sitting on the opposition benches.

1 comment:

rainywalker said...

Health and education the elderly and out future. Nobody listens to the bell ringer in the dark, they miss the point he is trying to make until they see it with their own eyes. But I love and support it when the people exercise their rights.