Controversy over Budget 2009

Mon, Oct 27, 2008, 00:00

Madam, - Ivana Bacik (October 24th) is right to argue that Ireland should have a universal health and education system. She suggests that a progressive taxation system would ensure that the better-off indirectly pay for the bulk of such services. This model works in Denmark, where citizens have a collective sense of responsibility and where tax evasion is seen as theft.

The Danes accept high levels of personal taxation because they know it is for the greater good. As a result the Danish health, education and social welfare systems are first-class.

In Ireland we do not have this collective sense of responsibility and tax evasion is not seen as a theft. The tax amnesties, offshore account scandals and planning tribunals have shown that corruption is deep-rooted in our society. We are at a crossroads and the actions taken by our leaders and by us the people in relation to the Lisbon Treaty and the budget deficit will determine the future of the State.

Do we want to continue as a society where vested interest groups continue to rule as we slip down the slope to emulate Iceland or Zimbabwe; or can our political class show true leadership and lead us by example to a fair and just society - perhaps by 2022, a century after the foundation of the State? - Yours, etc,

MARK HURLEY,

Thornbury View,

Rochestown,

Cork.

Madam, - Eight times during his Budget speech Brian Lenihan spoke of protecting vulnerable members of society, yet the terms of that same Budget will totally undermine those agencies that are charged with the task of protecting the vulnerable.

What cant! What hypocrisy!

Funding for the Equality Authority will be almost halved and funding for the Human Rights Commission will be cut by almost a quarter. Other measures will cause the virtual disappearance of the Combat Poverty Agency, the Office of Social Inclusion and the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Inter-culturalism. This is not only unfair and unjust; it is careless and uncaring!

We now have a Government that has firmly set its face against the development of a rights-based society. Who will pay the price? There can be only the answer: the vulnerable in our society.

This Government is a disgrace.Change can't come too soon. - Yours, etc,

ROBERT BALLAGH,

Dublin 7.

Madam, - The education cuts announced in the Budget once again put the deal done by the Government in relation to the Residential Institutions Redress Board centre stage. The estimates for 2009 show that €154 million will be paid out of the public purse to the board. This sum comes straight out of the Department of Education's current expenditure allocation.

I acknowledge that the State has a duty to compensate those who were abused in institutions. But the open-ended nature of then Minister Michael Woods's financial commitment was considered foolhardy even at the time. Indeed the Comptroller and Auditor General stated that "greater diligence" by the State "would have added extra rigor" to its negotiating strategy.

However, in light of the present circumstances the deal can be seen for what it is: reckless, irresponsible and scandalous. So too is the management of the scheme. In good times a prudent government would have set up a sinking fund to cover the costs associated with the redress scheme. This was not done and the €154 million will now come out of exchequer funds and reduce the amount available for the education of our children.

What a terrible vista has been created. The abusers of our children of decades ago are reaching across the generational divide to penalise our current primary and second-level students.

Shame on all concerned. - Yours, etc,

MICHAEL O'DOWD,

Balgathern,

Drogheda,

Co Louth.

Madam, - Until I saw her picture in your edition of October 23rd, I didnt know we had a Minister of State for Older People. Her silence up to now has been deafening. I cannot remember hearing any intervention from her in relation to the medical cards controversy.

This post should be scrapped and the money saved put towards the Budget deficit. - Yours, etc,

LEO RING,

Fairways,

Dublin 14.

Madam, - The Society of Archivists, Ireland would like to add its support to all who have written in opposition to the proposed amalgamation of the National Archives, National Library and Irish Manuscripts Commission. This decision was taken in the absence of the National Archives Advisory Committee, the statutory body charged with advising the National Archives, which has not been reappointed since its term ended in November 2007.

At present, our under-resourced National Archives works extremely hard to safeguard and preserve Government records, ensuring that people can discover and learn from this heritage.

It is imperative that both Government and citizens understand the vital role national archives play in any democracy. The records they hold are not a luxury but a right that must be available to all aspects of society. Not only are the stories of our people told in the records collected and protected by our National Archives, but the rights of our people are preserved.

It is difficult to see how the complex legislative issues to implement such an amalgamation could be resolved and impossible to see how this would result in any fiscal savings. The National Archives perform a unique function that cannot be compromised and they must stand alone. No amalgamation should be entertained. - Yours, etc,

LEAH BENSON,

Chairperson, The Society

of Archivists, Ireland,

Merrion Square West,

Dublin 2.

Madam, - The Government has backed down on medical card reform and the tax levy on the lowest earners and is likely fighting a losing battle over education cuts.

Healthcare reform, meanwhile, because of the sensitivity of the issue, has hardly been addressed. We are, however, facing the worst economic climate in two decades and desperately need to save money.

If we agree as a nation that infrastructural expenditure is necessary for future economic growth, where do we think the savings are going to come from? It is unfortunate but true that as long as we live in a capitalist society, and one unsupported by natural resources, we cannot risk capital flight by targeting the wealthy.

This is capitalism. It is fundamentally unequal; in fact, it is necessarily so. And since there is no appetite for change, people must get used to suffering when things go amiss. Since that is the case, the Irish people have to accept serious cuts in sensitive areas.

Otherwise, we will not look back on the past few days as a moment when the people stood up for the vulnerable, but one where the Irish neglected the long-term interests of the State out of selfish regard for their own comforts. - Yours, etc,

MICHAEL KEARY,

Aberystwyth University,

Wales.

Madam, - Since the announcement of the Budget, several Government Ministers have exhorted us to make sacrifices for "Ireland". Perhaps they need to be reminded of the words of one of the 1916 signatories: "Ireland without its people means nothing to me".

I have no doubt that the majority of James Connolly's co-signatories would have agreed with him. - Yours, etc,

NOREEN BYRNE,

Dublin 15.

A Chara, - This is the first time I can remember when Fianna Fáil has been in power at the beginning of an economic crisis. In some cases they have caused, or exacerbated, economic problems - eg the current problems, the monetary crisis in the early 1990s, the 1977 budget, etc. However, the party has never had to clean up the mess, except in 1987 after Ireland had practically gone bust. This followed a 10-year downturn to which the 1977 budget was a major contributing factor.

In my view, Fianna Fáil's purpose in life is to distribute, or facilitate the distribution of, taxpayers' money to its "friends" - builders, developers and other interest groups. This includes the usual growth in public service employment during its terms in office.

I believe that the recent Budget and the subsequent climbdowns are designed to  create instability within the Government coalition and trigger a general election. This will allow Fianna Fáil to "step aside" and allow some other combination of political parties to run the country. Then, when there is a recovery resulting in more money to be distributed, re-enter Fianna Fáil.  Watch this space. - Yours, etc,

JERRY MELINN,

Athens,

Greece.

Madam, - Congratulations to Fr John Gilligan and his parishioners for providing St Andrew's Church, Westland Row as the venue for last Tuesday's Age Action protest meeting. The prophetic decision was very much in line with the church's social justice mission.

Being a Christian is about taking risks for the sake of the Gospel. There is no reason why a church building should not be a place for people to express their deep anger, just as often as it is used for thankful celebrations. - Yours, etc,

ALAN WHELAN,

Beaufort,

Co Kerry.