THE main contention of the candidates in Cork South West – other than the three sitting TDs who represent the government coalition parties – at the Meet the Candidates questions and answers session, organised by Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with The Southern Star, was that most people they met while out canvassing maintain that they have not felt the effects of the economic recovery.
At national level also, Fine Gael and the Labour Party have learned to their cost in the opinion polls that having the economic recovery as the central plank of their bid for a second term in office has backfired and they have had to re-think their strategy in the final week of the campaign – too little too late?
They misread the public mood, especially concerning rural towns and villages who have not felt the recovery as tangibly as those in larger urban areas where most of the jobs have been created. Country towns still have boarded-up shop units and the ‘working poor’ struggling to make ends meet on low wages, not to mention the loss of a generation of young people to emigration because there is nothing here for them.
The government has failed to improve public services such as health and social housing and promises of political reform and an end to cronyism are unfulfilled. They say they need more time to finish the job as they were so busy for the first three years getting the economy back on track and the recovery still has a long way to go and may face some serious obstacles en route, which will require a steady hand at the tiller – in other words, political stability, which this election will not yield, going by the opinion polls.
But, it cannot be all about the economy. As several politicians have pointed out, Ireland is a society and not an economy. To fulfill the ideals of the men and women who took part in the Easter 1916 rising a century ago, our society needs to be fair and equitable; it is far from it and the establishment parties need to take this wish of the people a lot more seriously if they want to be relevant to them.
There was a lot of anger prior to the last general election that saw Fianna Fáil turfed out of office by the electorate. This time, the mood seems to be more of apathy – especially among younger people – because of their frustration with politicians in general and also the party leaders’ debates have done little to inspire confidence in any of the four main ones.
However, it is so important that people have their say this Friday at the polling booths by voting for those they think will best serve the needs of their constituency.