Irish solution has been to make most vulnerable pay
There have also been reductions in heating fuel subsidies and in supports to Travellers’ education, plus an increase of €2 per week contribution from those with a rent subsidy.
Low-paid workers in the public service, ie those earning €30,000 and less, have had a 5 per cent reduction in salary, and the minimum public service pension age has been raised from 65 to 66.
It has been a relentless assault on the disadvantaged, accompanied by protestations by the last government and this Government that everything possible is being done to protect the vulnerable.
Meanwhile, the agencies that campaigned for rights and entitlements of vulnerable people have been undermined or abolished: The Equality Authority suffered a huge budget cut and now may disappear; the Women’s Health Council is closed; the Crisis Pregnancy Agency is closed; the Human Rights Commission has had huge budget cuts and is now being merged with the Equality Authority; the Combat Poverty Agency has been abolished; the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism is closed down; the National Women’s Council of Ireland has had massive budget cuts; the Rape Crisis Network Ireland has seen its core funding ended; and Safe Ireland, which has been providing frontline domestic violence services for women including refuges, has had its core funding ended.
Meanwhile, in the vivid phrase of Tom Healy of the Nevin Institute: no senior bondholder left behind. Billions have been poured out to non-guaranteed bondholders in the banks, including the defunct Anglo Irish Bank. Hospital consultants’ vast pay has been left untouched. The legal profession has been left unreformed in spite of troika pressure (odd that powerful vested interest sectors can avoid the reach of the troika, while low-paid workers are faced with restructuring – ie the weakening of employment entitlements), and millionaires pay only 40 per cent of their gross income in tax, PRSI and the universal social charge.
And now we learn that the relentless assault on vulnerable people is to persist with the coming budget.
The news (as reported in yesterday’s Irish Times) that payments to young people aged 16 to 18 with disability may be cut by about €110 per week is indicative of the prevailing mindset that “there is no alternative” to immiserating the already miserable while “incentivising” the “wealth creators” to return us asap to the joys of the Celtic Tiger yesteryears.
Monday’s conference was held by the National Women’s Council of Ireland. I have used here material presented to the conference by Ursula Barry and Pauline Conroy.