Back to ‘normal’ or time for radical change? Send us your views and win a prize
What would you say to the parties forming the next government?
New deadline of Friday, May 29th at 5pm – see below
By William Hederman
As politicians from three parties sit down in a room in Dublin this week – socially distanced – to thrash out a programme for government, it’s likely there will be a big focus on getting things ‘back to normal’ as quickly as public health considerations will allow. But is a return to the old normal what we need? Or is this a once-in-a-generation opportunity to find new ways of organising our society and economy?
The Covid-19 crisis has been traumatic, bringing tragedy and distress to many people. But the crisis and the lockdown have also brought changes that may be worth holding on to. As Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party try to plan our collective futures, Clare PPN would like to hear your views on what they or any other grouping that emerges should be prioritising. We will publish submissions and there will be prizes of €50 vouchers for meals from local restaurants. Read on to find out more.
Covid-19 has transformed Ireland and Clare like nothing in living memory. The tourism and hospitality sectors, and much of retail, have shut down. Huge numbers of people in Clare have lost their jobs. This is a very stressful and difficult time for many, especially those who have lost loved ones, those who have lost their jobs or businesses and people living in isolation or in direct provision. There is huge uncertainty about what the future holds – for tourism, live music, sport. Some businesses may not reopen. Many of us will have to retrain.
Are there silver linings?
However, without in any way minimising the huge stresses, fears and grief this crisis has caused, there have been some silver linings around the dark cloud of Covid-19. The crisis has brought us together and has revealed the great strength in community. People are learning new technologies and finding new ways to do things. Many more people are growing their own food – organisations such as Irish Seed Savers in Scariff have been overwhelmed with orders.
The pandemic has also forced society to recognise the huge value of the work done by those in the health sector, carers, shop workers and others. It has also revealed that things we were told were impossible are possible after all – the use of private hospitals for public healthcare being just one example.
The global lockdown has also had huge environmental benefits. Cleaner air resulted in some 11,000 fewer deaths from pollution in Europe in April. Greenhouse gas emissions have fallen dramatically and wildlife is returning to areas they had fled long ago. The Government’s decisive response to Covid-19 has been contrasted to its years of foot-dragging on climate action. It turns out we can follow scientific warnings and take radical action to save lives, even if that means less economic output.
What the parties have proposed
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s joint document published in mid-April commits to working “towards a consensus on a united island”; plans for affordable housing and a new deal for renters; expanded universal healthcare; no rises in income tax or USC and no cuts to core social welfare rates.
Among the Green Party’s ‘red lines’ for entering government talks is a yearly reduction of 7% in greenhouse gas emissions, which climate scientists have warned is needed to avoid catastrophic climate breakdown. The party has also demanded the scrapping of the Shannon LNG fracked gas terminal on the Shannon Estuary.
Sinn Féin’s general election manifesto proposed abolishing Universal Social Charge on the first €30,000 earned; building 100,000 council homes over five years; opening 1,500 hospital beds and providing free GP care; giving people the right to retire at 65; and cutting the cost of childcare.
Solidary-People Before Profit pledged to hold a referendum to make housing a constitutional right, to build 100,000 homes over five years and a rent freeze; to push for a health service that is free at the point of use; free public transport for all and to shift the carbon tax towards big polluters.
Labour’s manifesto proposed building 80,000 homes over five years, a rent cap and rent freeze; the roll-out of Sláintecare and free GP care for under-18s; introducing more protections for casual workers and converting the minimum wage to a living wage.
Sláintecare was also central to the Social Democrats’ manifesto, as well abolishing home care waiting lists; building 100,000 homes over five years; trialling a four-day working week; ending the State subsidy for fee-paying schools; and encouraging community energy schemes.
What would you do?
So, if you could sit down – socially distanced – with the negotiators from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, or the other parties if they end up around the table what would you say to them? What new measures would you like to see in response to the crisis? Should they be striving to return things as close to the old ‘normal’ as possible or is this the time for a major rethink? What are the positive aspects of the lockdown and of the response to the crisis you’d like to see maintained?
Hundreds of thousands of people have switched to remote working – should this be continued? Could a four-day week become the new normal? Should Shannon Airport be bailed out and supported or should Clare be preparing for a post-air travel world by diversifying into new industries? Is it time for a universal basic income? Should we get rid of the Leaving Cert for good?
Even before coronavirus, sectors such as farming were already in crisis. Can a new approach to agriculture give farmers a decent living, protect the environment and make Ireland more food secure?
What about Clare’s musicians and arts sector? They have already been organising events, exhibitions and workshops online – what does the future look like for them? Any ideas?
Please send us your views on what Clare – and Ireland – needs now. Tell us what you would like to say to the parties forming a government or what you think is worth keeping from our experiences during this crisis.
Please keep your submissions to less than 350 words. Alternatively, you can submit a video of no more than 2 minutes. We’ve extended the deadline – email us by 5pm on Friday, May 29th, at email@example.com
We will publish submissions on our website and social media and they will go into a draw for prizes. For Clare PPN meetings, we usually pay for refreshments or room hire and we get to hear what people think of what‘s happening in the world. We‘re really missing those interactions and so on this occasion, for each of the four people drawn out of a hat, we’ll buy a €50 voucher at a local restaurant or takeaway of your choice – helping to support local business.
We look forward to hearing from you!