The claim game – and the blame game. Norma Foley beamed after her landmark political announcement in the household. The Kerry TD even admitted ambitions for higher office.
For decades to come, the Tralee teacher will be remembered as the minister who brought free school books.
When asked if she would be interested in becoming Fianna Fáil’s leader in the future, she commended the current incumbent for his “excellent leadership” and spoke about how she was “honoured” to serve in the Cabinet and spoke about how she was “honored” to serve in the cabinet sees no chance in the short term. But when asked if she said she had no ambitions to lead, she added, “I would never say no.”
Aha. You don’t survive Kingdom politics by hiding your light under a bushel. “I think anyone who is involved in politics, whether local or national, is always willing to do their best and take chances and it will stay that way.”
Sitting next to her in government buildings was Fine Gael’s junior minister, Josepha Madigan, who was kicked out of cabinet and is due to take a back seat in December’s reshuffle. Those are the cracks in politics.
Ms Foley was certainly happy to take credit for the free books scheme, which she says “was a priority of mine and marks a new chapter in Irish primary education”. Not only that, it is their “determination” and “intent” to then roll it out in secondary schools: “Embed there and then grow and nurture.”
Some of the Education Minister’s predecessors have had to scratch their heads and wonder why they aren’t at the top of the school books – a move that will benefit every family in the country. Having the resources is the obvious reason, but the measure costs just €50 million, which seems like a drop in the ocean with a wasted budget of €11 billion.
In addition, it also serves as a measure of the cost of living, and there are 11 months to sort it. Perfect.
When it came to taking the blame when such initiatives go awry, the education minister was less forthcoming.
The announcement of free school bus tickets in the summer prompted a record number of applications. There has been a one-third increase in concession tickets, but a difficulty in sourcing buses and drivers has left some schoolchildren stranded on the side of the road in the last month. The minister spoke of a “fundamental review of the entire school transport system” but did not hold up her hand to blame for the delays.
A similar pattern was observed as Cabinet ministers rolled out to herald their genius by securing their slice of the pie for funding initiatives in the 2023 budget. However, when it came to being over bad news or taking the rap for slow public service delivery, they all disappeared.
Curiously, when it came to ending the lower VAT rate for the hospitality industry, Tourism Secretary Catherine Martin said it was a “financial minister’s affair”. So much for the collective accountability of the Cabinet.
Justice Secretary Helen McEntee pointed to a “Covid-19 backlog” over poor recruitment numbers at An Garda Síochána, with just over half of the 800 recruits promised for this year being delivered.
It’s now the case that ministers are bluffing when they make promises about the implementation of services next year
Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien apologized for an expected home shortage, speaking in the Dáil of “construction product inflation and some supply chain issues”.
Health Secretary Stephen Donnelly whitewashed a number of missed targets, including a significant deficit in reducing the number of patients waiting to see a consultant. He blatantly announced free GP visit tickets again for all children aged 6 and 7, which was supposed to be in last year’s budget but never happened. Now there is a plan to introduce 430,000 more GP visiting cards, although doctors have warned they have no capacity and have not been consulted. “Sometimes when you wait for the perfect and for everyone’s satisfaction, it takes too long for the right thing to happen,” the health secretary wisely advised.
The problem is that in so many areas of public service, getting the “right thing” takes far too long, even when funds are allocated.
It’s now the case that ministers are bluffing when they make promises about the implementation of services next year.
The usual slow turning of the cogs within the system is also being exacerbated by a widespread workforce shortage, with the country reaching full employment.
The 2023 budget can be split into two parts – putting money straight into people’s pockets and funding public services.
The cash payments in the form of tax cuts, welfare payments, pensions, bonus payments, electricity credits and lower public service charges are easily implemented.
But when it comes to building houses, hiring doctors, training security guards or providing school buses, it’s more a matter of waiting and waiting.
Money no longer guarantees delivery.
And when the money in the pocket is spent, voters will judge by the services.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/cash-flows-but-delivery-slows-a-tale-of-two-budgets-as-lack-of-funding-no-longer-an-excuse-for-failing-services-42031439.html Cash flows but delivery slows – a tale of two budgets as lack of funding is no longer an excuse for substandard services