Vulnerable and poor targeted again in another viciously divisive budget
Opinion: Taoiseach claims we are all in this together, but the reality is otherwise
The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, speaking to the Fine Gael conference in Limerick last weekend. Photograph: Alan Betson
They targeted the vulnerable again yesterday: women with babies, the vulnerable elderly, the vulnerable youth, poor people dependent on prescriptions.
The well-honed spin persists: Fine Gael and Labour have rescued the country from the recklessness of Fianna Fáil’s policies of the Celtic Tiger era (Enda Kenny said in Limerick on Saturday night: “Years of give-away budgets gave away nothing except our economic security, our children’s futures”); the strategy is on track with growth, job creation and prearranged funding; we are about to recover our sovereignty and independence; the promissory note is gone (Enda Kenny claimed this in Limerick); politics is changing; and “we are never going back to the culture of the Celtic Tiger, never” (Enda again in Limerick).
In every single speech Enda Kenny made on budgets from the time he became leader of Fine Gael in 2002 until the crisis broke in 2008, he complained not that the budgets were give-away and giving away nothing except our economic security and our children’s futures but that they were not sufficiently give-away. Fine Gael and Labour were complicit in the recklessness that caused the crisis.
There may be a minuscule growth this year and, if all goes well in the EU, some growth next year, but it is precarious. The €28 billion promissory note, plus interest, is not gone, it is deferred to our children’s futures. The State might be okay “going forward” unless the banks need several more billions, which seems likely.
Sovereignty forfeiture copper-fastened
We have not retrieved our economic sovereignty and independence. Via the fiscal treaty and the forthcoming banking union, the Government copper-fastened the forfeiture of our sovereignty and independence forever.
As for any meaningful change to the political system, no way! In Limerick on Saturday, Enda said: “Corporate donations have effectively been banned; Dáil sitting days have increased by a third; we brought in gender quotas to get more women into politics.” Why the banning of corporate donations makes any difference is beyond me. How could it matter whether rich people buy the political system through donations through their corporations or personally? What is insidious is any private finance seeping into the political system. More Dáil sittings is meaningless when the Dáil itself remains irrelevant. Yes, the gender quotas represent progress but minor progress.
Politics has not changed, it remains about which crowd gets the big ministerial jobs, along with the status and influence that brings. Politics is almost not at all about how society might be shaped, how wealth might be distributed (not just created), or how the sovereign people might be meaningfully involved in the exercise of their sovereignty. Politics remains fixated by the demands and rigours of markets and, crucially, by the imperative of pleasing the holders of economic power. This ordains a deeply unequal society with all the cruelties and belittlements that brings. That was the politics of the Celtic Tiger and remains the politics of the post-Celtic Tiger.