It’s an election truism that people will always vote with their pockets and it has been the case in numerous Irish elections gone by. This one will be no different. So is the economy rebounding quick enough for you?
‘IT’S the economy, stupid.” That line has long been a staple in election campaigns, the phrase itself coined by Bill Clinton’s insurgent campaign when running against George Bush (the first) back in 1992. We saw that at work here when Fianna Fáil were returned to power on two occasions (2002 and 2007) despite multiple questions about their handling of other issues, not least Bertie Ahern’s personal finances in 2007. On those occasions a booming economy glossed over many other ills, but the same party would die by that sword in 2011 when the collapse of the tiger saw them decimated. It was the economy. Fine Gael and Labour in this election have much to be satisfied with and can bring a record of achievement to the doorsteps. Only the most blinkered of viewpoints can disagree with that. There are officially 135,000 more people employed in this country since they came into office and the current rebounding economy is now adding 1,000 new jobs a week. Those are impressive top lines and it would take a very short memory not to recall the climate of 2011 and the sheer desolation of the Irish economy. Morale was on the floor, the dole queues lengthening and the flight of our young and very able in the thousands. So credit where it is due, Fine Gael and Labour have presided over a recovery and we are much better off than we were five years ago. But how is that reflected in Clare? Have we felt that bounce? This past weekend has brought the announcement that West Clare Early Years was closing with immediate effect and along with the disruption to so many households with young children, up to fifty people would also be losing their jobs. This devastating news will be a lot fresher in memories than the litany of pro-job releases of recent times. Those positive news stories include Clare’s unemployment figures returning to almost 2008 levels with tourism leading the revival. Shannon Airport’s resurgence has come under this Government’s watch and that has been a notable success, so there are victories the incumbents can point to. We are nowhere near the levels of prosperity that the country enjoyed during much of the noughties however and memories of that time, unrealistic as it might have been, still linger. Well paid jobs are still thin on the ground and many of the new jobs coming on stream offering less than the industrial wage, which is reputedly in the region of €40k a year. We have seen a slight improvement in paychecks since January, a well timed boost leading into the election of course, but for many that clawback is far too slight. Our banks continue to restrict credit and this is an area the Government promised more than they have delivered. Meanwhile relatively new taxes on property and water will never be properly embraced, as if taxes ever could be. There is no denying that the East Coast has rebounded quicker than the rest of the country but this has always been the case and demographics have much to do with that statistic. It can be forgotten that Dublin plunged into recession first too. But these are not fault lines candidates like to discuss. ‘The recovery hasn’t washed all over Clare and this is all we care about, the why is down to politicians and their abilities.’
This is where this election will be fought in Clare and in constituencies all over the country. The current opposition politicians, left, right and centre, will try to convince you that this Government are messing up the recovery. They will say it should be more pronounced, its’ effects should be felt quicker and they know how to remedy all of that. In truth no party has all the answers and very few candidates will have the influence their election literature suggests to solve all of our problems. It is entrepreneurs and planners that can fast track jobs in this county, not an independent or back bench TD. What the Clare economy could really do with is a front line Cabinet Minister. For the next three weeks Fine Gael and Labour will keep hammering the economy and their record in restoring it. The opposition will attempt to debunk that. It is after all the economy, stupid.
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