TALKS Dara Calleary, pictured here speaking to RTÉ after his re-election back in February, feels a new Government is needed sooner rather than later to help make important decisons regarding the Covid-19 crisis. He is part of the FIanna Fáil team currently involved in negotiations. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
The sheer scale and speed of the Covid-19 crisis is difficult to grasp. The statistics seem to fail to capture a health, social and economic catastrophe that reaches into every home in our country and has affected each of us on a very personal level. The mounting loss of life - nearly 1500 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives to date is a stark illustration of the devastating impact of Covid-19.
All the while as families struggle to stay safe in lockdown, many of their livelihoods are in jeopardy from an economy in freefall. 1.1 million people are on some form of state support, our hospitality and retail industry are effectively shuttered, construction sites have been silent, farm incomes are under renewed pressure, business revenues have plummeted and a quarter of businesses have pulled down the shutter, many deeply uncertain about opening again. In Mayo alone over 16,300 people who were going out to work at the beginning of March are now are surviving on the pandemic unemployment payment. That’s thousands of homes that seen their income fall and the futures clouded in uncertainty.
Supports have been announced. However, some of those-like the €2 billion credit guarantee scheme and €2 billion of tax deferrals will not be possible to implement without political parties taking responsibility. Businesses struggling to keep their heads above the rising waters that need supports today to keep their staff employed or keep the hope of re-opening alive will have to wait until a government is formed to get many of them.
In Mayo, we are particularly vulnerable to this economic crisis. Key sectors such as tourism, hospitality, retail and agriculture that support so many jobs across the region will need sustained support to get up and running again. SMEs, the backbone of the Irish economy employing over half of all workers are particularly important in rural counties. These enterprises are struggling with cash flow and will need help to chart a route out of the economic morass once, the crisis has passed. These businesses struggles will put the finances of Mayo County Council under further pressure.
Political leadership is urgently necessary to set out and implement a National Recovery Plan for the whole country.
We have endured this crisis as a country through shared effort and a deep sense of commitment to our families and communities. For many it has meant enduring social distancing from loved ones while for others it has meant working on the frontline of our hospitals. It has showed the best of us as a nation. To move forward through the coming stages we will need to show that same kind of collective effort and shared responsibility at a political level.
We need a government that will pass legislation to provide vital supports to businesses and communities and set out a road map to economic and social recovery. We need a government that will invest in public services and ensure a balanced regional recovery that benefits all parts of our country. The current talks on a Programme for Government are aimed at delivering such an ambition.
There are difficult decisions ahead for any party that decides to go into government. For my party, Fianna Fáil it will mean hard choices to work with parties that we have rightly disagreed with over many issues in the past. Understandably our supporters and members are concerned about the compromises this will involve. However, our island faces one of its biggest ever challenges. Fianna Fáil will play it part in responding to that challenge.
Ballina native Dara Calleary, TD, is the Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil.