It’s Not The Economy


From top: Red C poll results in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post; Ireland Thinks poll results in yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday; newspaper panel on RTÉ’s Weekend on One;


On RTÉ Radio One’s Weekend on One.

Brendan O’Connor was after speaking to the show’s newspaper panel about yesterday’s most recent general election poll results when he referred to a “narrative” of the election that “this country is not doing well”.

During the newspaper panel section, Mr O’Connor spoke to the former leader of Fine Gael and former chairman of IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, Alan Dukes; political scientist at UCC Theresa Reidy; political reporter at The Irish Times Jennifer Bray; director of the ESRI Alan Barrett and Anna Marie McHugh, of the National Ploughing Association.

During their conversation, Mr O’Connor referred to an article by Richard Colwell, the CEO of Red C Research, in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post entitled ‘Youthquake a possibility as younger voters flock to Sinn Féin’.

He then had the following exchange with Mr Barrett.

Alan Barrett: “Very often, it’s digging down into the poll is as interesting as the poll itself and just to distil a number of themes. I suppose, as an economist, it won’t surprise you that I sort of, you know, focus on the economics bit on this and let me explain what I’m thinking the following way.

“Do you remember the phrase ‘it’s the economy, stupid’? And this was a mantra I think a lot of political people thought was a pretty sound way of running elections. This is really, really interesting.

“Because what we have in Ireland at the moment is, we have and economy that’s doing extremely well and we also have a poll which is telling us that the people actually trust the governing party, in this case, Fine Gael, most on the economy.

“And I think, and I’m looking at Theresa [Reidy] now, as the political scientist, in most countries in the world, if you have those sorts of numbers. There’d be a very high probability that the governing party was going to be re-elected. But in Ireland, we’re in this situation now that it looks like this will not be the case…”

Brendan O’Connor:A narrative has emerged here…”

Barrett: “It has…absolutely…”

O’Connor:That this country is not doing well. And a lot of people in the country are not doing well and that’s been the narrative of this election.”

Barrett:It has and obviously it’s getting traction, ok? But if you look at things like, you know, the standard things we look at, in terms of employment and wage growth – they, very, very often, those are really sort of the main drivers in this sort of situation.”


Barrett: “Let me come back to what I was saying, for fear there was a misunderstanding. All I was saying is, across the globe, ok, it tends to be the case, when the economies are going well, governing parties get elected.”

O’Connor: “But that’s what I’m asking. What’s the disconnect here?”

Barrett: “Well, clearly, clearly we do have major challenges in the area of health and housing, there’s absolutely no doubt about that, the childcare issue I think has been…you know, I think we all understand it and we all know that these issues are in play and they’re very, very challenging.

“And clearly then the way, the narrative of the election is sort of unfolding is that people are attracted to the parties whom they feel over more hope in these areas and that’s a perfectly reasonable and understandable thing.”


Alan Dukes: “First of all on the childcare issue, yes there are problems, yes there are problems of cost and availability. The fact remains…”

O’Connor: “It’s a problem of childcare, commuting and housing, it’s those three things coming together.”

Dukes: “Yes and when you look at the current state of provision and compare it with what was in 2011, for example, the improvement is huge. It’s certainly not at the point that suits everybody but the improvement is huge…”


O’Connor: “Why have Fine Gael lost control of the narrative then? Why are they not able to get the narrative you’re just talking about there?”

Dukes: “Because I think…”

O’Connor: “Longer life expectancy, lots of good health outcomes, unemployment way down. Where has that got lost in all of this?”

Dukes: “Because I think there’s a natural tendency in all of us to take the progress that’s been made for granted and to want more.”

Listen back in full here

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29 thoughts on “It’s Not The Economy

  1. Christopher

    Totally agree with the final point- there seems to be some idea that the economy rebounding had nothing to do with FG and that this will continue if SF or FF are in power (who will somehow be able to fix the health service and homeless where FG have failed). I just don’t see where that belief comes from.

    1. Brother Barnabas

      it comes from the fact that economic fate of a small open economy is primarily determined by external economic factors- and only marginally by whoever happens to be managing it at the time

  2. dav

    It’s become clear that fg don’t want to win the election, they want it awarded to them in recognition on their “prudent management of the economy” and they can’t seem to understand why the electorate don’t follow their thinking. They would have this election sown up if they got rid of their ideological hatred of people in need of affordable housing. They could have had 3-4 years of estates being built with an fg logo on notice boards outside, of families living in houses with pictures of garret fitzgerald on the mantelpiece. If the shoe was on the other foot ff would have it donne with the estates named after charlie haughey

    1. Brother Barnabas

      or FG know all too well that theres some brexit-shaped economic turmoil coming down the line and they’re happy to let FF take over now and ultimately take the blame for it

    2. Giles

      I would agree as. Brexit is going to be a disaster
      They of course called this election to loose it because who is in charge will have the poisoned challace which will be our economy
      Ever wonder why we have no building programme homelessness dire health services?

      We have a boom economy but our debt
      By the time we service the debt there is nothing left

  3. Truth in the News

    This RTE Sunday Show is a farce, all it is a weekly collection of Dublin
    4 conservative pundits, selected by RTE to mull over what the rest of their
    fellow travellers wrote in the Newspapers,….in other words nothing too
    controversial that might rock the boat, and as to having the likes of
    Dukes on, he is politically dead with over 30 years

  4. Smokymo

    You simply cannot attribute the economy’s performance to previous/current government. FF/FG are just passengers on the bus of Economy, and were lucky that bus was turning in the right direction couple times so they claim like they driving it. Watch what happens when it going to start turning different directions again from their calls. They will say its out of their control and nobody can do anything.

    1. Rob_G

      To a certain extent, you are correct, are economy is dependent on external factors. But Ireland’s economy has consistently been the fastest-growing in the eurozone for the past 5 or 6 years, how do you account for that?

          1. Ghost of Yep

            You’re asking why our economy has done so well in the past 5. I’m pointing to the tax rates and healthy external factors being the prime reasons. What policies by the current government have been driving factors?

          2. Rob_G

            “I’m pointing to the tax rates…

            Do you think tax rates are a revealed mystery, like the Third Secret of Fatima? Or policies implemented by governments?

            All of the other eurozone economies would be subject to the same external factors, more-or-less, and yet our economy has been the fastest-growing over the past five years – we must be doing something right.

          3. Rob_G

            So you do acknowledge that some of our continuing economic success is due, at least in part, to the current FG government?

            Thank you.

    1. Rob_G

      The past 4 or 5 budgets have been expansionary budgets – the “austerity” buzzword is gone, even Paul Murphy dropped it two name-changes ago.

        1. Rob_G

          Some yes, some, no.

          Tbh I don’t think it would be responsible to go back to paying secondary school teachers with 4 years’ experience €45k a year, I think we would quickly end up in the exact same situation again.

          1. Rob_G

            Yes, the 10,000 homeless people sucks. Think how much less money the government would have for dealing with the problem if they still had to pay pre-Croke Park levels of funny money to public sector workers.

          2. Cian

            Between 2011 and 2019 the population has increased by 340,000 people, homelessness increased by 7,000; That means that there are 333,000 more people in homes.

            I know that doesn’t help the 10,000 homeless, but it shows that there has been massive changes in the last 9 years.

          3. dav

            I do believe that the state managed to build houses in the 1930’s,40’s,50’s etc and money wasn’t flying around then. This governments reluctance to build houses is ideological, not financial.

          4. Tighe's Cylon

            So what salary would you prefer to see paid for this position? Does the current renumeration meet with your agreement or would you like to see less?

            What line of work are you in? Not judging, obviously.

          5. Rob_G

            In the 30s, 40s, and 50s:

            – land was dirt cheap
            – the houses were simple affairs – no insulation, no long list of regs to comply with
            – labour was cheap – there would have been plenty of people in the building trade looking for work. Try finding anyone in the building trade for love or money now.

            I’m not saying that the government couldn’t have been more pro-active on housing the past five years, but your response is hopelessly simplistic.

        2. Cian

          BB for whom?

          – If you are a civil/public servant. No. (hours were increased, pay cut were pushed on them, and they now pay a pension contribution).
          – If you are a high-income earner: No (USC is 8% for all over 70K income;; the income levy and health levy that it replaced topped at 5%)
          – If you are very low income earner: No. USC is charged @ 0.5%
          But for the majority of people: yes.

          Tax rates are lower (20% + 40%) now than 2007(21% & 41%) ; tax bands are slightly higher now single is €35,300 now Vs €34,000 in 2007.

          There are new taxes now though: e.g. LPT
          VAT is higher now 23% Vs 21%

  5. Salmon Eile

    Stop advertising for RTE Bodger.

    I would have hoped this BS show would have passed away with its previous host. Unfortunately not. Same old.

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