MoneyTimes - February 10

Posted by Jill Kerby on February 10 2011 @ 09:00




I’m very lucky that I live on a busy street – election canvassers seem to prefer suburban neighbourhoods with family saloons and kid’s bikes parked in the driveway to the faceless inner city terraces where half the houses seem to be occupied by flats and the others by owners who barely greet their next door neighbour, let alone a canvasser who’s interrupting Fair City or the latest football scores.

I’m quite friendly with my inner city neighbours, and would positively welcome the chance to grill a politician seeking election in my Dublin South Central constituency.  But in the nearly 18 years I’ve lived on this street, not a single candidate has appeared at my door though a few supporters have knocked or dropped leaflets.

It doesn’t really matter. I’m only going to mark my ballot paper against one name, the Fine Gael incumbent, Catherine Byrne TD, not because I’m a party member or supporter – I’m not – but because she’s a decent, hardworking woman who has been a very good local representative, first on the city council and more recently in the Dail.

Catherine Byrne is modest, genuinely concerned representative and we certainly need more of those qualities in the Dail.  I think she’d be uncomfortable with the ludicrous trappings of office and extravagant pay, expenses and pensions that we bestow on ministers and junior ministers in this country.  She wouldn’t need reminding that this country is smaller than many English cities but runs deficits that rival those of far bigger countries.

If any candidates, or even canvassers dare to knock on my door during this election – including Catherine Byrne, who already knows she has my vote – I will at least go through the motions of asking them a few of the following questions that are relevant to the future of my family, but whose answers I doubt that I’ll find very enlightening:

  • Will your party honour the IMF/EU loan agreement or will it admit that Ireland cannot pay this national/bank debt and should declare bankruptcy?
  • What is your party doing to prepare for bankruptcy?  Does it have a plan about how it will deal with the inevitable high (but hopefully short term) job losses and inflation that will occur? Will we remain in the euro and eurozone? How will we pay the state’s bills? Is there a Plan B,C,D or E?
  • Will your party fast track the personal insolvency and bankruptcy recommendations of the Law Commission so that indebted homeowners will have some hope of a life after debt?
  • Ireland spends €52 billion but only raises €34 billion in tax and other revenue.  How will you find the €18 billion budget shortfall? Do you believe the country should live within its means?
  • Does your party accept that 1.8 million earners cannot continue to support the unaffordable social and pay promises that have been made by too many governments over too many years to too many people?
  • How much bureaucracy does a country the size of Manchester need? Does more or less of it help or hinder education and training, the treating and curing of the sick, or in the creation of wealth and employment?
  • Will your party end ‘universal’ and untaxed social benefits and replace them with proper means testing to identify those members of society who are most in need of the few resources we do have?
  • Does your party support wealth taxes – such as a property tax or on businesses to pay for the budget deficit?  Who pays?  Who is exempt?  How much will your government allow people earn before you further tax those earnings and distribute it to the people who you decide are ‘entitled’ to this money?
  • Will you break up and privatise the VHI, which is owned by the Department of Health and cannot survive without the levy/subsidy, so that the private health insurance industry can operate on a level playing field? What is your party’s view about universal health insurance?
  • Will your party stop over-paying and over-pensioning politicians and higher civil servants? Will Irish taxpayers keep paying for guaranteed, final salary pensions for the public service when such pensions are no longer available to the vast majority of other workers?

The canvassers job is to make their candidate appear sympathetic and caring - and indignant on your behalf - about all the bad things the outgoing government did.


Since every decision a politician makes has to be paid out of someone’s pocket, and that someone is nearly everyone under age 65 now that the Universal Social Charge has become Ireland’s lowest tax rate, you might want to put together a list of your own questions. 


Once it gets around, however, that you won’t take their platitudes for an answer, expect just the usual leaflets with the smiling faces and lots of promises, to be pushed through your letterbox.

If there’s one thing that really annoys a canvasser, (especially one with a candidate in tow), it’s a thinking voter who knows when the old game’s up.








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