Returning to Ireland in the middle of a general election campaign, there is the temptation to engage in a vain ‘If I ruled the world’ exercise, or, in this case, ‘If I ruled Ireland’. If I had the opportunity of a plan for government, the programme would include:
(i) a massive public works programme, with benefits withheld from those who refused to engage in public or community service. There would be the possibility of regenerating the construction industry and transforming places ignored in the years of Tiger economics.
(ii) the taxation of non-domiciled residents. If pop stars, and miscellaneous others, want to live in Ireland, then let them at least pay the same taxes as the rest of us.
(iii) the restriction of gambling to only those who can produce a certificate showing they have paid income tax for the previous year. This would at a stroke reduce the €3 billion wasted on betting each year and ensure social welfare payments were used for their intended purpose.
(iv) making parents responsible for their children. Parents should be made amenable for all offences committed by persons under sixteen years of age, including being liable for fines incurred.
(v) a limit on taxation. A situation where the government takes more than 50% of the marginal pay of working people is absurd, it is a disincentive to work.
(vi) a charter of fundamental human rights. Equality and freedom should be enshrined in the constitution; newcomers to Ireland should understand that on arriving they accept the rights and liberties enshrined in Irish law.
(vii) reform of public administration. The functions of county councils to be assumed by the appropriate public bodies: roads by the NRA, schools by the Department of Education, etc, and the immediate cessation of payment of salaries to county councillors. The interference by TDs in public administration to become a criminal offence.
(viii) the recognition that the free market does not provide proper health care. The abolition of the private health companies and the payment of premiums into a proper national health service; the money saved in advertising and administration alone would bring a massive overnight change.
The list could go on, but the minor cost free changes would include barring the selling of aerosol paint to persons under the age of 21. The amount of graffiti on Irish streets would drop dramatically.
Is there any chance of such changes? With an opposition that differs little from the government, it’s pointless hoping.