‘Towards a Just Society’

 

Sir, – The column by Mark FitzGerald invoking the “Just Society” suffers from the usual weaknesses of most writing about this document (“Fine Gael must not abandon Just Society ideals”, Opinion & Analysis, May 24th). It ignores entirely that the Ireland of the mid-1960s was a very different place to the one we live in now.

The Towards a Just Society document championed price controls that would see the State fix prices, much as we had with air travel in the 1980s, and income controls that would protect the professions from competition, and rapidly increase the pay of those working for the State, while glossing over how any of this would be funded. It proposed the sale of local authority houses to their tenants, a policy now condemned by some quarters as Thatcherite. It proposed a policy of universal health insurance to fund healthcare, an idea that is cyclically lauded as ensuring people have equal access to the health system, but then spurned by the electorate when it is noted that everyone would be required to contribute something. While popular with those affected, do we still need “a scheme of arbitration for sub-postmasters”, or to single out for increase the “pensions of CIÉ pensioners”?

This might seem nitpicking but it shows the document was prone to just the sort of pandering to special interests that many who now invoke the document will denounce with disdain.

Towards a Just Society was of its time and served its purpose but it is long past time that it was given a decent burial. Instead we should task ourselves with creating a new document, one that addresses itself to the challenges we still face while acknowledging that we are faced with wholly new challenges too, and that there are completely different options open to us.

The invocation of “A Just Society” is no more a useful contribution to political debate than asking us to “Remember the Alamo”. – Yours, etc,

DANIEL SULLIVAN,

Marino,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Mark FitzGerald writes that Leo Varadkar must be persuaded to buy into the principles of the “ Just Society”, while other commentators such as Senator Lynn Ruane have attempted to criticise him on a similar score. However, I wonder whether Mr FitzGerald and others have in fact reviewed Mr Varadkar’s freshly released Taking Ireland Forward policy document before making their remarks?

Mr FitzGerald’s article championed Declan Costello’s representation of “a rights-based, forward-looking commitment to justice and to the common good of all Ireland”. In the aforementioned policy document, Mr Varadkar espouses similar sentiments. On education, it is stated that “we can break down barriers that leave people caught in the margins by building pathways to fulfilling individual potential and lifting communities”. On health, a “vigorous public health agenda” that is patient centred and outcome-driven is to be pursued. Additionally, it is outlined that resources will be prioritised following a pledged ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities later this year. On housing, crucially there is a commitment to introduction of taxation on properties that are habitable but unoccupied for more than two years in areas of high housing demand. This measure, similar to one introduced by the socialist Jospin administration and later enhanced by the more right-wing de Villepin administration in France, has been promoted by the Peter McVerry Trust (among others) as potentially the most significant ordinance that could be availed of to release vacant properties back in the property market for sale or rental.

It is clear that Mr Varadkar presents a distinctive and dynamic pro-enterprise agenda, but it should be emphasised that the core tenets of supporting a better society are also entirely evident within his policy platform. – Yours, etc,

Cllr JOHN KENNEDY,

Dún Laoghaire

Rathdown County Council,

Marine Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I get up every morning, pick up my Irish Times off the doorstep, prepare the breakfast tray, return to bed and spend the next few hours listening to Morning Ireland and reading your politics gurus. I’m still none the wiser as to who will protect my interests best. But whatever about me, the country’s future is methinks safer with the dullish Simon, a man who understands Europe, and all its skulduggeries, and who will be able to think on his feet when attempts are made to sell us down the river. – Yours, etc,

PAUL MURRAY,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Is the animated, challenging Simon Coveney, who is fighting for his own political skin, any relation of the languid, accepting Simon Coveney who sits in Enda Kenny’s Cabinet? – Yours, etc,

KEVIN O’SULLIVAN,

Letterkenny,

Co Donegal.

A chara, – I am disappointed but not at all surprised at Leo Varadkar’s statement this week regarding his intention to effectively deny the right of strike to workers in certain sectors.

While Mr Varadkar’s comments may appeal to a certain right-wing element within his own party, such proposals are completely unnecessary and not at all conducive to achieving and maintaining the calm, robust and fair industrial relations environment which would be of benefit to all parties.

Mr Varadkar’s ill-considered and unhelpful statement, made for his own political purposes, does nothing but antagonise the diligent, hard-working and professional employees in those sectors to which he referred.

Any attempt to implement such an undemocratic and draconian policy could well instigate the sort of industrial unrest that Mr Varadkar ostensibly claims to seek to avoid. – Is mise,

SIMON O’CONNOR,

Crumlin,

Dublin 12.