In the words of Aaron Sorkin, these are serious times, and we need serious people, and in particular we need a Taoiseach who is clear in his or her mind as to what their objectives are and how they are going to get there. One of the great problems with our national leadership has been that we have had so many men who just wanted to be Taoiseach with no idea why. It was only in office that they started to ponder what they were actually there for.
It is very possible that there will be a debate between the three primary candidates for Taoiseach. I believe it is important that they be able to answer specific questions, and I’d like to suggest some of the questions I would like answered by the candidates. In fact, I wonder would it be such a bad idea if RTE let viewers choose the questions to be put to the candidates?
1. You say you are in favour of protecting the vulnerable, and that logically means that others must carry the burden of greater cutbacks and higher taxes in order to shield the vulnerable. In your mind, at what income level do you believe someone is vulnerable, and so believe that those above should carry the extra burden?
2. As a country, we permitted our public expenditure to exceed our tax revenue to a very substantial extent, which has forced us to sharply cut spending in a recession, something economists have traditionally warned against. If tax revenues were to begin to raise during your term of office, would you prioritise building up a reserve to prevent such sharp cuts in future, or would you immediately begin restoring cuts in public spending?
3. What specific economic statistic would you regard as being the test of success or failure in your first term, be it GDP, GNP or the unemployment rate? For example, at what rate would unemployment have to drop below for you to regard yourself as having a sucessful first term?
4. There has been a lot of talk of political reform, changing the voting system, etc. At the end of your first term, what powers will ordinary voters have to effect political change that they don’t have now? How will it be easier for non-traditional candidates to be elected?
5. Will you rule out any concessions or secret negotiations with Sinn Fein during your term even if they vote for you for Taoiseach without your consent?
6. Do you believe taxpayers should continue to pay for the pension of politicians and public servants who earn, on average, far more than they do? Why should those individuals not fund their own private pensions?
7. Obviously, getting unemployment down will be your priority in office. What will be the second priority, you will hope to have achieved by the end of your first term, and how will it specifically be judged as a success?