Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael/Labour governments are known quantities. The civil service really runs the State, using elected politicians as spokesmen - and it is usually men - and change comes at a snail’s pace. As soon as one of the parties get too big for its boots, we switch to the other, and the cycle continues.
As the current Government argues that our choice is stability or chaos, we are at risk of returning to this tired formula at this month's General Election, and for the foreseeable future. Insider would argue that this “stability” also comes with risks – Fianna Fáil brought the country to its knees through cutting taxes and increasing spending, while Fine Gael was calling from the sidelines for even lower taxes and even higher spending!
So what is the alternative? The political Left in Ireland is often written off as the “loony left” - well meaning, but unable to govern ,and not credible on the economy. This political narrative is unusual in Europe, where there are typically large centre-left parties that lead governments. Galway West could lead the country in showing this is possible in Ireland - we are unique in having many credible centre-Left candidates in Seamus Sheridan (Green Party ), Niall Ó Tuathail (Social Democrats ), Catherine Connolly (Independent ), and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Féin ).
As a result, Insider will try to divine what a resultant centre-Left programme for government could look like, and how Galway’s candidates would represent this.
A common belief across the Left is that the basic public services – health, education, childcare, and housing – should be mostly financed and run by government. How would Team Galway contribute?
Niall Ó Tuathail has experience in major health reform in the NHS in England and has outlined detailed policy on how to fix the Irish health service. He also has former minister of state at the department of health Róisín Shortall as a party leader. Independent Catherine Connolly is a clinical psychologist who has also spent many years challenging the local HSE leadership in her role as a councillor.
Insider would argue that a smart investment in our public services would create a fairer society and is in everyone’s long-term interests – even those paying the most tax. For example, for every euro invested in primary care we save six euros in hospitals. This would be better for our health and better for our pockets.
Supporting business and the marginalised
In politics, you are either pro-society or pro-business. Anyone outside politics knows that to have a strong society you need to have strong businesses. So how does the Galway Left stack up on business?
Seamus Sheridan is arguably the most credible business candidate in the country on business. He and his brother have built cheese empire Sheridan’s over the past few decades, employing more than 100 people. Ó Tuathail is more recently on the entrepreneurial path, setting up a software design firm working in healthcare and news. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Company, a prestigious consulting firm trusted for advice by CEOs and governments across the world.
With two TDs with real experience of starting businesses, Ireland could better support Irish businesses to get set up and improve our society by providing jobs, improving our quality of life with products and services, and paying taxes.
The Left argues there is a minimum standard below which no person should have to live, and therefore aims to protect the most marginalised in society. What are the credentials of the Galway candidates on these issues?
Sen Trevor Ó Clochartaigh has a credible track record of raising the issues of Traveller ethnicity, direct provision, and campaigning for the survivors of State institutions in the Seanad. Cllr Connolly has been outspoken on supporting victims of domestic violence and single mothers. All four candidates canvassed for a Yes during the recent marriage referendum, with Ó Tuathail leading the Yes Equality campaign in Galway.
The environment and Gaeilge
Storm Imogen was the ninth storm this year – an average of one every four days. This is not normal and Insider believes climate change must be tackled. A Green TD like Seamus Sheridan in government would force the environment up the agenda – not just climate change but other local environmental issues such as large-scale fish farms and sustainable agriculture. Cllr Connolly has been a relentless campaigner against a new road for Galway, in favour of improving public transport first.
Depending on who you talk to, the Irish language is somewhere between on the edge of extinction and potentially on the cusp of a mini-revival. Wherever we are on this, most would agree the language needs some support to survive and thrive. Three of our candidates – Ó Clochartaigh, Connolly, and Ó Tuathail - are Gaeilgeoirs, with Trevor being the Sinn Féin spokesman for the language and Gaeltacht. With such a team in government, we would have strong advocates for our native tongue in the Dáil.
The catch - no massive tax cuts
There is always a catch! With an emphasis on State-funded public service, such a government would not be able to promise the short-term tax cuts on offer from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and Labour.
What would Insider say to those who turn red looking at their paycheck each month? She would ask them to take the short-term pain for long-term gain. Investing smartly in our public services will reduce the long-term cost of the services and improve the value for money we get from our taxes. Supporting local businesses will provide employment and make our economy less dependent on multinationals. Protecting the most marginalised will allow us to create a more equal society that will be a source of pride and will reduce future costs for the State. Ireland playing a leading role in tackling climate change globally could secure our environment for future generations. Keeping our teanga beo will allow future generations the option of making it the main language on this island.
Galway West can lead the State in returning a majority of credible centre-left TDs with integrity and competence – Insider recommends we do it!