A NEW YEAR’S UNCERTAIN OUTLOOK

The past year has seen a new but unstable Government elected, with Enda Kenny earning his place in history as the first Fine Gael Taoiseach returned to office.

A Budget has been passed, water charges have been effectively dumped and a new housing plan has been announced, yet others matters, such as public pay, have not been effectively dealt with.

We’ve come through Luas and bus strikes, and such disputes appear all but guaranteed within our health service, where nurses are having to cope with increasing levels of stress.

The drop in the value of Sterling and the slowdown within the UK economy in the wake of the Brexit vote, allied to the further uncertainty catalysed by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, have cast great palls overhead.

At best, 2016 was a mixed bag. At worst, it was a year in which populist rhetoric and the absence of true political substance were overlooked or indeed ignored by voters in the UK and US, but thankfully rejected by a majority of Austrians during their recent presidential poll.

While Paudie Coffey lost his seat and ministerial brief, Waterford did at least retain a junior cabinet position through Independent Alliance TD John Halligan with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Skills.

As we report on News 5, Minister Halligan has threatened to resign from cabinet should Fine Gael pressure attempt to unseat his colleague Shane Ross, who appears to have considerable difficulty in settling into life as Transport Minister.

Both Ministers Ross and Halligan have clearly found life in Government a difficult adjustment when compared to the life of an independent, media-savvy politician. Fine Gael have demonstrated considerable patience when it comes to holding this government together, and they’ve had to do so in the face of Fianna Fáil’s rise in the polls. But how much confidence is in the Confidence and Supply Arrangement remains to be seen.

One suspects this Government will get at least another Budget passed, and Enda Kenny is adamant that there will be no election in 2017.

“We have 600 tasks in the Programme for Government and we are getting on with that business, and the last thing on my mind is the thought of a general election,” he said last week. “We are far too busy, working in the interests of the people to contemplate that.”

Regionally, some goals are long-standing, but remain vital. We would like to see WIT given additional finance to fuel its further expansion, to drive investment and boost job numbers.

In addition to seeing the North Quay SDZ project develop, we would like to see our politicians concentrating on boosting WIT and furthering the North Quay development.

The boundary issue will rumble on for some time to come, but it appears that some interests in Kilkenny have worked themselves into an unnecessary lather over hurling-related matters. Clubs that have played throughout their history in Kilkenny should clearly remain clad in black and amber. Planning, investment and urban development on the north bank of the Suir must be delivered and ought to be supported.

No further services should be cut at UHW, and cath lab services (even the suggested mobile facility) ought to be expanded and supported. And that case should be made on the basis that it is a regional facility which should be funded and serviced accordingly. Surely that counts more than any county boundary? We’re surely better served in this region if more us think regionally. Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh.

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