Originally Posted by Lord Glentoran
Indeed. Official Ireland’s attitude to the railways down the years has veered from bare toleration, to neglect, to grudging investment, to using them as Trojan horses for Mosherways (yes, the M3), to realising that parts of the country would grind to a complete halt without them, to willy nilly wanting them as a cheap way of providing cycle paths.
I’m pretty sure that some cling to thinking of railways as ‘one of them things from the time of the Brits’ and dreaming of even more mosherways and breeze block retail parks as the future, while wondering why all those cars are clogging up their commute from Southfork Ranch to downtown Dallas.
It wasn't personal to railways.
It's important to understand who controls CIEs budget and what their mindset is and where it comes from.
There are two issues that have f---d Irish transport infrastructure over the years:
1. The Great Recession.
You will recall that even though there was a lot of investment in the rail network durin the Tiger era (DART Upgrade, platform extensions, disability access, new rolling stock, new stations etc) it all came to a screeching halt (PT the only exception) in 2008 when the Metro was put on hold then pulled by Leo. The idea was we could not afford rail and transport investment politicians not knowing the difference between an investment and an expense.
I remember talking to one of the guys who worked as an SA for one of Berties ministers, during a discussion on the crash, about this topic. We agreed it would not have mattered which govt was in power during 2008, since the global financial crash dragged down every western country, so there was no way of shielding a small open economy from a worldwide meltdown, but I suggested that fiscally
, there were ways we could have been better prepared for it, and perhaps thus might not have needed to beg the EU and IMF for a bailout loan and put all our major infrastructure plans on hold during a critical boom in population and growth.
One of my suggestions was that even though taxes started out as far too high in 1997 they were cut too low by 2007 and the tax net was decimated thanks to PDs having no other ideas except: cut taxes more.
Two, was that the huge surplus we had, esp with less tax cuts it would have only gotten bigger, was that at least half of the budget surplus should have gone 50% into a fiscal reserve fund (kind of thing we finally started up now, ironically at FF's insistence maybe a lesson learned finally) and 50% into infrastructure projects as a booster to any borrowing. It would have meant less cuts, and it would have meant we'd probably have Metro North, Metro West, Luas Lucan, the green line would extend to Bray, we'd have DART Underground and all finished by now and they would have provided construction jobs during the crash as the projects would have been at their latter end during it, which means we'd have less builders emigrating and of course an economic stimulus.
"Fantastic ideas" he said, "but you're forgetting something since you were too young to hear it back then". He then explained how one of the big media talking points, and opposition talking points, during that era was how the govt wasn't spending enough money, was being "stingy", how the pension reserve fund should be tapped into, that taxes should be cut further (even labour got in on tax cuts demands by 2002 it seems). Most important, and I was shown actual news program clips of examples of this, was the idea by all politicos opposition included that "w'eve fixed the economy now the debate is how to spend the money", we naively thought we'd discovered some kind of magic formula and Ireland was always gonna have a great economy now because of a mix of the EU, FDI and a low corporation and labour tax rates.
The political wisdom was people vote on the economy not public services, FG ran on healthcare in 2002 with a semi-decent idea for universal coverage and got trounced...and they were right. All the research showed people were voting based on how high taxes were and who they thought could keep the boom going. The only cared about bad quality public services if they themselves were personally affected.
Saving for a hypothetical recession would have been laughed at.
He reckoned any govt that followed my above plan would have been voted out and the previous spend it all cut taxes galore would have kept going, landing us in the exact same place anyway.
2. What politicos think are the voters spending demands.
It's a matter of what gets you votes, and until V.E.R.Y recently infrastructure wasn't it. Now, while some politicos are stuck in 1999 and think it's still all about the economy (this is why FG took a hammering last time) the post recession world has changed things DRASTICALLY. People still care about their economic well being of course, but because during the crash era many had drowned in debt and had to sell their cars and use PT, had to use public hospitals instead of blackrock clinic, had to use social welfare, the electorate are far more aware on public services, and the green issue coming up makes PT more important. Cap it all off with Generation Y and Z (millennials and their successors) being the lefty socially conscious sort even as they get older, it's all about the public services now. FF made a gamble under it's new leadership of campaigning on this rather than gimmicky economic stuff like tax cuts that Leo was pushing and it worked.
In the 97,2002, 2007 elections people on the doors would tell you what they wanted was an extra 10 or 20 on the pension, jobseekers etc or a tax cut.
Now they tell you they want reformed or improved services. Some still want their taxes cut but they are a minority.
There are however still many politicos that think people don't care about infrastructure and PT so you need to tell them at the door when canvassers call:
I want better services more than i want a tax cut ill barely notice.
The shift has already started but it needs to be pushed.