Colette Fitzpatrick: Helping parents pay for childcare is too big an issue for auction politics
There is an expectation like never before that the forthcoming Budget will be the one that will give something back to the so-called 'working poor' - the 'coping classes'.
You see, working families are the species that just keep on giving.
Giving themselves guilt heaped upon fear, barely keeping their heads above water. Some are being hunted out of their homes to pay the bills. Others are trapped in homes too small for their families in order to save money to pay bills.
And for many of these families the single biggest financial issue is the cost of childcare.
A recent Irish Independent survey of more than 150 creches across the country found that costs can be as high as €25,200 before tax, for two children in Dublin.
The national average was more than €19,600 for two kids under the age of three. But last year half of those at work - 964,000 people - earned less than €28,500 before tax.
This week Renua Ireland proposed that parents should be entitled to tax relief to help cover the cost of childcare, which, it estimates, would cost the Exchequer €500m a year.
The scheme would be available to creche operators and parents on an opt-in basis.
The tax relief would be shared with 20pc falling on the service provider and the remaining 80pc falling on the service user.
The party also wants to extend leave to both parents after childbirth, meaning mothers and fathers could share up to six months off work - or fathers could take the full six months of paternity leave if the mother stays at home.
This all sounds just sweet. Paid paternity leave. Tax breaks. It sounds Nordic, not Irish.
But you see there's an election coming and all parties are lining up to reveal what they believe working families need and should have.
We all roughly believe in the same thing - that families are not one homogeneous group and that they should be able to make choices to suit their personal situation.
Where mums want to work outside the home they can and where they don't, they don't have to.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has previously said he wouldn't rule out tax breaks for parents.
He said there would have to be caution exercised around any new initiative. He is concerned tax breaks could drive costs up and "might not produce the results that you want".
At least he's been a little circumspect in his language and has not embraced auction politics.
The point is that Government policy, whoever is in government next time out, shouldn't dictate which childcare option you go for.
But we shouldn't be promising something that can't be delivered either. The cost of childcare should be the last thing parents look at and one of the first that politicians look at.
But it must be looked at with an economic and social hat on, not an election one.
Chelsy's no Kate - and that's why I hope she gives it another go with Harry
Chelsy Davy has a sort of brazen appeal. Prince Harry's ex-socialite girlfriend has that 'my skirt is too short? So what?' cut to her jib.
Sheer barely-there tights? 'Pass me a large bottle of fake tan, please. Anyone got a light? Want to do shots at the bar?'
Chelsy is strong, independent and a rule-breaker. And now, according to the social column gossips, she may start up with Harry again.
Now I know that, after Diana, Kate Middleton is the royal standard. Demure, pleasant, appropriate and decorous. And I certainly don't agree with writer Hilary Mantel's vicious attack on her - she labelled the future Queen a "jointed doll on which certain rags are hung' and a "plastic princess" who was "born to breed".
I buy that she's a nice girl and that her and Prince William seem genuinely in love. The children and family look exactly like they're meant to.
But don't you think that she's acts little old for her age? At 33 she's cutting ribbons and looking agreeable. Is making every move under a microscope really fulfilling for a girl of her age?
The expectations, the pressure, the scrutiny - that's not Chelsy Davy's deal. She comes from money. She has access and privilege and I'd say she couldn't give a monkeys about a royal title.
If Harry and her hook up gain, presumably it would be for real this time. He's had girlfriends and she's had boyfriends and none has worked out.
On and off for seven years means this would have to be more than a 'let's see how this goes' kind of thing.
If it worked out could you imagine a fiancé as crazy as Harry? Strip billiards would be the appetiser for the press.
Just picture the joint stag and hen - it would make The Hangover look like a five-year-olds's birthday party.
Go on Chelsy, give it another go.
Does Hillary really do the housework?
It's generally been celebs who indulge in so-called 'lifestyle branding'. Think Oprah, Martha Stewart and, more recently, Reese Witherspoon.
Now Hillary Clinton's jumped on the bandwagon, launching a 'Women for Hillary' campaign, which includes receiving a 'Thx Box'. It's a campaign version of a monthly subscription box where women get beauty products sent to them - but in this case it's household products.
Household products? Come on. That's just setting yourself up for a bit of sexism. Surely being like Hillary and voting for Hillary are different things? And does anyone believe Hillary (pictured left, at her Washington DC home) lifts a finger in her house?
'Fat shame' rant makes me sick
I hope Nicole Arbour (inset) finally gets all the attention, 'likes' and notoriety she clearly craves after posting a hateful video online.
The YouTube star and comedian uploaded a 'fat-shaming' clip on YouTube, which claimed that overweight people should be ashamed of themselves, urging them to give up their bad habits instead of giving excuses.
It would be one thing if it worked but shaming people about their addictions, whatever they are, only makes people feel worse about themselves - and can cause them to self-medicate to feel better.
In this case many of them would self-medicatE with food. So well done Nicole. #madetheproblemworse