10 issues that are more important for the next government than Irish water

1 Without a strong economy all social progress will be hampered. The outlook is good with almost 5pc growth predicted for 2016.

But the Finance Department has warned that Ireland faces the biggest international threats since the 2008 crash. These include the risk of Britain quitting the EU, rising oil prices, and a Chinese economic slowdown triggering world recession.

2 The Dáil heard last Wednesday that latest figures show that 5,811 families, including 3,793 families with 1,881 children, are currently homeless. Apart from the inhumanity, short-term hotel accommodation is ruinously expensive.

3 Housing demand continues to seriously out-strip supply. Incentives are needed to get decent developers and builders back in action - without again over-heating the market.

It is a huge issue in Dublin. In 2015 only a fifth of the 13,000 housing units completed were in Dublin and 60pc of housing demand is around the capital.

4 Mortgages remain a huge issues. Young people, even those on good money, find it impossible to qualify under Central Bank rules.

Some 62,000 people remain in mortgage arrears of over 90 days. People on variable rates are paying up three times the Eurozone rate.

5 Health service problems continue to be afflicted with defeatism. Every day brings a new problem in the two-tier system where people with health insurance can still jump queues. Proper budgeting is still a distant goal as is an effort to tackle the A&E crisis.

6 Industrial relations problems are a ticking time-bomb. The ongoing bitter Luas dispute in Dublin risks spreading across all public transport.

Key public service sectors like gardaí and teachers are seeking pay cut reversals. A rash of disputes loom and careful attention is required.

7 Crime remains a big problem with gangs in Dublin, major centres and rural communities are fretful.

A more visible, enhanced garda presence is urgently required. A return to garda recruitment is welcome but it must be increased.

8 Education issues, especially third-level college under-funding, have been neglected and long-fingered. Teacher-pupil ratios in primary schools remain worryingly high.

Studies on Ireland's past economic successes showed how attention to education was a major factor. The corollary also applies here. Neglect education at your peril.

9 Rural desolation has also been neglected too long and voters sent a strong message in that regard to the outgoing government.

Just appointing a new Rural Affairs Minister will not remedy the ills. Rural broadband is crucial. Cheaper rural transport is just as important. But a big vision and thinking outside the box must be the hallmark of the new Government.

10 British voters will decide in 55 days whether or not they will remain in or quit the EU.

A major EU-US trade deal is being negotiated with potential fall-out for Irish farmers and others. The refugee crisis will return centre-stage as summer approaches with knock-on consequences.

Irish Independent
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