Election 2016 – weighing up the options

 

Sir, – The people have spoken. While they certainly rejected the proposition of continuing with the last government party line-up (as was predicted by both polls and bookies for over two years), they did not reject Fine Gael, which remains the largest party. This distinction was evident among Fianna Fáil voters, whose next preferences generally supported Fine Gael candidates more than any other party.

Voting patterns may suggest voters clustered around two predominant outlooks: the first generally accepted the necessity of the bailout and accordingly (though reluctantly) the need to make “difficult decisions; the second largely rejected this premise and coalesced around “anti-austerity” and radical “change” parties. Others, perhaps either unsure or distrustful of both, opted for local or Independent options.

Evidence of this clustering can be found in the distribution of preferences. For example, beyond inter-party transfers, Fine Gael was the party which benefitted with the single biggest transfer of votes from no fewer than 11 of the 13 Fianna Fáil TDs who surpassed the quota on the first count.

Similarly the next favoured party of voters for both the Fine Gael TDs who were elected on the first count was Fianna Fáil.

By contrast, the only Sinn Féin first-count surplus went mainly to People Before Profit, while the broadly appealing Social Democrats saw the surpluses of their poll-topping TDs go mainly to each of the three largest parties respectively.

Perhaps the people, through divided, are ahead of the politicians and parties on what they want. – Yours, etc,

EDMOND BYRNE,

Frankfield,

Cork.

Sir, As the Irish people cast their votes in the general election, the European Commission published its European Semester Ireland Country Report 2016.

The findings of this report are essential reading for political parties trying to decipher why the Irish electorate voted as it did.

The report found that cost-effectiveness, equal access and sustainability were critical challenges for the Irish healthcare system. It noted that Ireland frequently performs in the bottom third of OECD countries on a range of quality-of-care indicators, including avoidable cancer deaths.

It identified that the proportion of long-term unemployed in total unemployment in Ireland remained high at 55.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2015, exceeding the EU average of 48.2 per cent.

The report noted that poverty and income inequality have increased in Ireland, while recognising that social transfers continue to shelter the most vulnerable.

It found that in 2014 16 per cent of Irish children lived in jobless households and that the overall rate remained the second highest in the EU, much higher than the 10.9 per cent EU average.

Low work intensity was found to be especially prevalent for single-parent households (50.6 per cent) in Ireland in 2014 compared, with 28.8 per cent in the EU.

Relative poverty amongst children and young people was reported to have increased in Ireland in 2014. The at risk of poverty (AROP) rate of young Irish people aged 18 to 24 was found to have increased significantly from 21 per cent in 2013 to 26.7 per cent in 2014, and is now 3 per cent above the EU average.

Continuously falling public funding was reported to have had an impact on the Irish education sector. Irish government general expenditure on education as a share of GDP was reported to have decreased from the pre-crisis peak of 5 per cent in 2009, and the 2013 figure of 4.1 per cent was one of the lowest in the EU.

The purpose of this letter is to express the hope that, whatever the formation of the next government, the political parties that participate in it have the political resolve and the policies necessary to address the serious housing, health, employment, and education challenges that this country faces, among others.

If the fairer, more equal society that so many Irish people voted for in this recent election is to become a reality, the next government has a critical role to play. If it fails to do so, the electorate is likely to vote for even more radical change to our political system in the elections to come. – Yours, etc,

DEIRDRE de BURCA,

Cabinteely,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – When I went to vote, I was not surprised to see more or less the same people as last time supervising the process and handing out the ballot forms. I was again struck by the fact that this is a job that you never see advertised. So how are they appointed, what is the process, why isn’t it advertised and by how much do they benefit from their day’s work? I can’t help thinking that this process should be more transparent and that these jobs should be advertised so that anyone can apply. – Yours, etc,

JOHN DUNNE,

Enniscorthy,

Co Wexford.

Sir, – Sinn Féin will not do business with Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael but it has no problem with the DUP. Aithníonn ciaróg ciaróg eile! – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL JOY,

Midleton,

Co Cork.

Sir, – A large section of voters believe that the country was wrecked by the government of Brian Cowen. Another section believe Enda Kenny’s government also ruined the country. Yet both sections seem very anxious to have Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael come together to form the next government.If that’s not irony, what is? – Yours, etc,

BRIAN O’SULLIVAN,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – I wonder if the salaries for the newly elected TDs were to begin only following the election of a taoiseach would that help focus their minds? – Yours, etc,

BRIAN MOLLOY,

Ballinderreen,

Co Galway.