As the country finally cobbles together a Government after months of dithering ‘will they won’t they’, one newly appointed junior minister’s major concern appears to be about relaxing the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants. That he is the junior health minister with specific responsibility for disability makes it all the more surreal.
There are major long-standing fundamental issues to be resolved that affect hundreds of thousands of people and here we have one minister expressing concern about having a fag when he goes for a pint or a nibble.
Has nobody told the man that particular horse has long bolted? Now is not the time for denial.
Our economy is far from stable. Our borrowings and unemployment levels are still unacceptably high. There are very dark clouds on the horizon.
Public sector employees are taking advantage of a weak unstable Government desperately trying to hold on to power for at least three years.
Wage increase demands are increasing and industrial action is sure to follow.
The Middle East is in a mess and is shipping refugees into Europe by the hundreds of thousands. There is no coherent or acceptable programme to either house them or integrate them into a pan-European culture.
It amounts to a veritable time-bomb that could go off at any time.
With a new president on the horizon, the US is not fully in play either.
That would not be so bad if we knew what either of the prospective candidates are likely to do. We do not.
They are as likely to reconstitute fortress America with all of the implications that will have for us. On top of that, the world economy is far from stable.
However, what is happening next door to us is more important to us in the short and medium term.
The vote on membership of the EU will likely to have the greater impact should it decide to succumb to voting for a Brexit and depart the EU. Britain continues to be one of our largest trading partners.
There are millions of Irish citizens resident there. The implications are considerable.
The Brexit polls are far from certain. President Barack Obama’s intervention may have swung it back to the Remain side for a while, but now it’s back and forth again.
The problem will arise if UK folk decide which way to vote on an emotional level rather than on a pragmatic level. That will open up a veritable Pandora’s Box.
The fact is that the Brits are not alone in being disenchanted with the gravy train that the European project has turned out to be.
It is also clear that there is a democratic deficit.
Policies on a full union and regional armies are being pursued that the vast majority of citizens do not want.
Peripheral countries are ignored in favour of those in the centre.
On the other hand, both Britain and Ireland did extremely well in attracting outside investments that want to locate in an English speaking country with access to the growing European market that may reach 510 million people.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed and a lot of people to buy computers and cars and other goods.
The Leave brigade in the UK has persuaded itself that it can negotiate to be allowed to continue to benefit from the EU whilst accepting none of its dictates.
At best it’s an illusion. ‘Britannia rules the waves’ is the stuff of history.
Events and time have moved on inexorably. In its much-weakened position on the periphery, it must ask itself how realistic its hopes are of getting out unscathed and business as usual continuing.
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary believes that its airline industry will suffer.
If it votes to leave it creates far too many uncertainties for Ireland. It’s one of the biggest markets.
Ireland is exposed. There would for sure be an opportunity to find new export markets but that would take a lot of time.
In the meantime, the world is a veritable economic see-saw. There is nothing wrong with the Government preparing for the worst.
In simple terms, from Ireland’s perspective, Britain would be better off staying in Europe and work with other countries to improve management of the union, increase accountability and eliminate the massive perceived waste of resources in the EU.
It’s better to stay in the tent.
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