Michael McGrath TD: A government committed to recovery and change is needed

Michael McGrath TD: A government committed to recovery and change is needed
Dara Calleary TD, Barry Cowen TD, Michael McGrath TD and Anne Rabbitte TD, Fianna Fáil, arrive for Government formation talks at the Department of Agriculture, Dublin. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

It is now over three months since the general election.

It seems even longer given that more than 1,200 families have lost loved ones due to Covid-19, the economy has been paused and normal life as we know has been replaced, while we all make a concerted effort to fight this insidious pandemic.

Fighting the pandemic has rightly been given priority. We all welcome that the full spread of Covid-19 has been mostly controlled. This is due to the exceptional sacrifice and dedication of all frontline workers in our public services, driven by the Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan and the rest of the NPHET Committee.

The ‘caretaker’ government has had the full support of all parties and none while the country has dealt with Covid-19. The legislation that was required for the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Pandemic Payment was passed in a few hours as we all knew it was a national emergency.

There will rightly be a different approach as we plan to revive and reboot the economy to save and create jobs. The lockdown has been tough on everyone, particularly those that have been 'cocooned', a word we all look forward to never using again.

As we all prepare for the restrictions to lift when it is safe to do so, we need to prepare for what is ahead. It will not be easy as many people have lost their jobs in sectors that will take a long time to recover - hotels, tourism, pubs, restaurants, retail to mention just a few. We will get through it and I want to play my part in ensuring fairness in the next government.

While hard decisions will have to be made by any incoming government, the burden should not be placed on workers or on vulnerable sections of our society. 

People are still scarred from the last recession and we need this recovery to be completely different.

The next government must listen to and learn from people. The big difference in this recovery is that it will require the whole of Europe (EU) to work together. We are all facing the worst recession it has had since its foundation. 

This will require the EU to respond more aggressively and much faster than it has up to now. Liquidity and access to finance is key for trade to continue. The aviation sector will need early attention to allow tourism across the EU to start recovering.

If social distancing can be arranged, there is no reason why construction cannot restart on May 18th so that people can get back to work particularly in the housing area.

It will take a long time to get back to the ‘new normal’. A lot of preparatory work needs to be done to save businesses, and allow them access to finance so that they can retain and create jobs. I would like to play my part in the forming the National Economic Plan.

I am part of the negotiating team to form a government with Fine Gael and the Green party. Any government that Fianna Fáil will be involved in will be a government of change.

We are all aware of people who do not know if they will be able to return to work. They are afraid for their future. It is not a time for usual party politics. The country needs a fully functioning government.

Ireland has changed dramatically since February 8th: the rules on the economy has changed, the way we work has changed and I believe that the next government including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party has huge potential for change.

The response to Covid-19 demands that we do our utmost to form a government so that we can tackle Ireland’s recovery while also prioritising housing, health and climate change. We cannot wait another five years to tackle the climate and biodiversity emergency.

A comprehensive recovery will not happen by itself, it must be planned and shaped by a government which can introduce measures which are not solely emergency actions supported by all.

The new government must deliver change by borrowing money at low interest rates to allow for investment in much needed capital infrastructure and to invest in housing. The response to how housing is delivered needs to be changed. 

This will be done by allowing local authorities and the new Land Development Agency to build social and affordable homes. We need to work with the industry to ensure that residential construction is viable.

The caretaker government has announced various measures for businesses, but some of these will not be introduced until there is a functioning government and Dáil as they require primary legislation.

Small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of the Irish economy and they need state support now more than ever. Delaying on forming a government will not be forgiven or forgotten.

There are so many areas that need to addressed and a new government will allow for this. While the announcement to waive commercial rates for three months is welcome, it seems inevitable that more will need to be done. Progress on insurance, commercial rents, and other fixed costs, is essential.

Fianna Fáil wants to be in the next government so that we can lead Ireland through a recovery.

In the next few weeks there will be a need to prepare and pass spending estimates. This will involve enormous amounts of taxpayers’ money and it is crucial that this is examined properly.

Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have already published a framework document which involves new thinking on a range of social, economic, environmental and cultural challenges facing our country.

There should be a radical change to the public health system to deliver fairness and improve services as well as a new approach to mental health and special needs. We also have priorities in relation to education, community development and social supports.

Ireland needs a government that is committed to help us recover from this unprecedented emergency and show leadership in the coming years.

We can’t forget that Brexit has yet to be solved. From June onwards there will also be a need to respond to major Brexit developments.

I and my party will continue to be constructive and show urgency in trying to move from a framework for a new government towards a more detailed programme for such a government.

Michael McGrath is a Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South Central and the party’s Spokesperson on Finance.

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