A two-year coalition ‘progress report’ published by the 26 County government has been described as an attempt by the coalition to give itself a ‘pat on the back’.
This week Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Fine Gael and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore of the Labour Party published the coalition’s second annual report, to mark two years in government.
Mr Kenny said that after two years of cuts, “people’s hard work and sacrifices are beginning to pay dividends”.
But his claims of success over the two years were ridiculed by the opposition. Commentators linked the new campaign to promote their political achievements with the government parties’ decline in opinion polls and the upcoming by-election in Meath East, set for March 27th.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the government should ‘take a hike’.
“If it wasn’t so serious, it would be funny,” he told the Dublin parliament.
“Here we have a government patting itself on the back. This is a government that was elected two years ago and it has done the exact opposite to what it said it was going to do.”
Mr Kenny insisted the report showed the coalition was successfully implementing its ‘Programme For Government’, and that the economic decline had been stabilised.
“Just two years in, two-thirds of the commitments in the Programme have been progressed satisfactorily,” he said.
“Because they have, stability is returning. We will continue to work with that hard-won stability to sustain our ambitious but realistic agenda.”
Mr Gilmore admitted the government “had not done everything right” and he singled out tackling mortgage arrears and high youth unemployment as two areas they had yet to ‘tackle properly’.
But Mr Adams accused Fine Gael and Labour of presiding over two years of austerity and of significant hardship for citizens.
“In 2011 people voted for change,” he said. “Instead Fine Gael and Labour broke their election promises and implemented Fianna Fail’s policies.
“The Labour Party promised to protect the people from the most draconian of Fine Gael’s policies yet after two years household incomes are devastated by stealth taxes and cuts to wages.
“Unemployment is at 14.2%. Youth unemployment is 27.7%. Some 87,000 have emigrated in 2011 and that trend has continued.
“Companies are tearing up agreements with workers, arbitrarily paying them off or denying them wages or redundancy payments.
“On Fine Gael and Labour’s watch there have been a succession of savage cuts to wages and incomes and the introduction of new additional stealth taxes, like the household charge and family home tax; water charges; increased VAT; increased motor tax; as well as cuts to child benefit; cuts to home help hours, to the carer’s respite care grant and much more.
“Last week the government again targeted the most vulnerable in our society by scrapping the Mobility Allowance Scheme and the Motorised Transport Grant Scheme.
“Today we learned that the number of households disconnected by gas suppliers jumped by 36% in the third quarter of 2012.”
Mr Adams warned that a new Public Service wage agreement would make things worse.
“I believe the Croke Park 2 agreement will exacerbate the austerity driven agenda of this government and that working families - those on low and middle incomes - will be squeezed again. Frontline workers have been especially and unfairly targeted.
“Austerity is not working. It is the disadvantaged and low and middle income families who are bearing the burden - again.
“The leaders of Fine Gael and Labour are in no position to pat themselves on the back. They have implemented two years of austerity policies and caused significant hardship for citizens.”