Growing unrest as government talks continue

There is a growing fury among unions, representative bodies, and charities over a plethora is issues piling up as government negotiations continue.

Growing unrest as government talks continue

Although Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael negotiating teams finally hammered out an agreement last night, both parties will now spend the weekend fully drafting the final document before putting it to each of their parliamentary parties for approval.

Then comes the task of trying to woo at least six Independents to join them in a Fine Gael-led minority administration.

And with no government in place for more than 60 days, significant issues are now boiling under the surface. These include:

  • An escalating homeless and housing crisis.
  • Delays in the roll-out of rural broadband, meaning families and businesses in regional areas could have wait six more years for high-speed connection.
  • A two-tier health system which has seen public patients waiting 20 times longer for cancer scans than private patients.
  • Potential strike and protest action by teachers, nurses, gardaí, and other public sector workers.
  • Mounting anger among farmers over plunging milk prices over the last two years which has taken at least €630m out of farm incomes.
  • A continuing hospital Emergency Department crisis which saw 364 people on trolleys on Wednesday.
  • Planned strike days this autumn by members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland (ASTI) over Junior Cycle reforms.
  • An escalation in gangland violence, which has seen four men murdered since the election was called.
  • A legal loophole on suspended sentences, which has yet to be closed and has allowed a prisoner walk free from court.
  • The threat of a Brexit.

For each day that the political wrangling has dragged on, three families have become homeless.

Focus Ireland says around 180 families have become homeless since the election on February 26.

Roughan MacNamara, of Focus Ireland said: “There has been so much talk, yet sadly the homeless crisis continues to get worse so far this year.

“At this time in 2012, eight families a month were becoming homeless in Dublin. This monthly total has now shot up more than ten-fold with nearly 300 families becoming homeless in Dublin alone in the first three months of this year.”

Rent allowance is set be increased by up to 15% under the Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael deal. However, the Irish Examiner understands a recent review carried out by the Department of Social Protection found that it would cost €25m to increase rent supplement by just 8%, money which would be hard found.

This week it was revealed that public patients can be left waiting up to 20 times longer for cancer tests than those with private healthcare, while trolleys continue to line hospital corridors.

Gerard O’Callaghan, chief operating officer for the South-South West Hospital Group, yesterday told Newstalk radio: “It’s not something that I am happy about, the sooner we can reduce the waiting times the better.”

An incoming education minister will have a number of major and urgent issues to tackle on entering office.

The ASTI teachers’ union is to ballot on withdrawal from the Croke Park hours and have already balloted for strike action over Junior Cycle reform.

Farmers are also angry that the Irish agricultural sector faced unprecedented challenges and threats on almost every front but had been ignored in the negotiations about the formation of a new government.

ICMSA president John Comer said falling milk prices over the last two years has seen farmers’ income drop by at least € 630m with a loss to the rural economy of at least €1 billion.

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