Election Promises: Will Political Parties Ever Learn!
I don’t think I was the only one to react with a cynical shrug on reading about the Government’s announcement this week of a Metro train service from St. Stephen’s Green to Dublin Airport, and on to Swords, at an estimated cost of €1.8 billion. It immediately called to mind the great Dustin the Turkey election poster on behalf of The Poultry Party, back in 2010, promising to run the DART to Dingle.
After all we’ve come through over the past six years of grinding economic recession, apparently Government Ministers, of whatever political hue, still don’t get it. The Irish people are sick and tired of grandiose pre-election sweeteners, and no matter what might be the intrinsic merit of a proposal such as this, pulling it like the proverbial rabbit from the magician’s hat is just bad politics in the current environment.
“So they can spend billions on a rail link to the airport and they cannot provide emergency housing for a growing number of families in our capital city”. That will be the “Talk to Joe” shorthand reaction by many ordinary people today. Of course, this is a misreading of the true situation. Note that Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe did not actually announce this as a Government decision, just that it is the preferred option. And if this project is given the go ahead, it will come under the Government’s Capital Budget, and will be over five years plus.
Is there no-one in Government at all who can see the folly of this electioneering guff, if they could only look beyond the ranks of their doctrinaire party followers. If the current crop of Minister has any real savvy they would be collectively resolving whatever problem stands in the way of installing a couple of hundred of the very impressive pre-fabricated houses which were put on display a fortnight ago. These are superb dwellings, and would be miracle homes for those young families currently holed up in totally unsuitable hotel rooms.
However, we now hear from Minister Alan Kelly, a decent man who clearly conveys the impression that he wants to deliver and not just promise, that emergency planning legislation is going to be needed, and he is talking about it being a matter of weeks before this can be resolved. Can the Government not tell the AG to drop other business and, if emergency legislation is needed, get framing it and pass it through the Dail and Seanad is a single sitting, within the next few days!
As for major capital projects like a rail link to the airport, the Government should have the savvy to promote an open debate on such a costly venture before plonking this week’s €1.8 billion election sweetener. Is a rail link to the airport really needed?
Twenty-five years ago, it was very fashionable in public discourse to lament the fact that Dublin Airport was one of the very few international airports without a rail link to the city centre. But that was before the profusion of very good and cheap bus services, and taxi liberalisation. The reality today for natives and visitors alike is that there are many very efficient, economical ways to get to and from the airport from any part of the capital.
So let’s have a real public debate about public transport options in the Dublin region, a debate that will take account of the actual changes in transport modes that have occurred in recent years; that take account of what the country can afford; and that take account of wider social and economic priorities. And let’s put the General Election goggles to one side……………please!