Cori director criticises economists


HUMBERT SUMMER SCHOOL:ECONOMISTS HAVE become “the ultimate authorities” in most policy areas and their views are given “the status of absolute truth”, Fr Seán Healy, justice director of the Conference of Religious in Ireland (Cori), has said.

Opening the Humbert Summer School in Ballina, Co Mayo, last night, Fr Healy said Ireland needed to make some crucial choices at this point in its development.

“Many good developments have resulted from the economic growth of the Celtic Tiger years. But they have been paralleled by closely linked negative developments or failures,” he said, in a paper prepared for the opening session of the school.

Cori represents Catholic religious orders in the social partnership talks.

“While per capita income grew dramatically, 17 per cent of the population still live in poverty with incomes below €11,400 a year for a single person and €26,400 for a household of four,” said Fr Healy.

“While many people have far more money than before, the demands of the new order require them to commute long distances in private transport to their places of employment (making them time-poor), and the new order has not put the required level of services in place in areas such as education, healthcare and welfare.”

Gross Domestic Product had come to be seen as the key indicator of progress.

One of the side-effects of this was that economists became “the ultimate authorities on most areas of public policy”.

“We see this clearly today in Ireland both in the context of Government decision-making and of media commentary. Over and over again the views of economists are accepted, often unquestioned, unless economists disagree among themselves. If there is no disagreement their views are given the status of absolute truth.”

The Humbert Civil Rights Award was presented to Nobel laureate John Hume and his former SDLP colleague Austin Currie in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the beginnings of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

Presenting the award, Humbert School director John Cooney said the founders of the civil rights movement were the real architects of the partnership government in Stormont today.

In his speech of acceptance, Mr Currie welcomed the political progress made in Northern Ireland but expressed concern about “increasing signs of the development of an apartheid society, in the original meaning of that term, of ‘separate development’” with the DUP and Sinn Féin increasingly representing their own sectional interests.

On the issue of the “disappeared”, he said the injustice done to these victims “calls out to high heaven for redress”.

The school, named after French general Jean Humbert who led an expedition to Ireland in 1798 to support the struggle for independence, continues over the next three days with Cardinal Seán Brady, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Labour deputy leader Joan Burton and Fianna Fáil TD Mary O’Rourke among the guest speakers.