Responses To The Budget
Sir, - I refer to Fintan O'Toole's excellent article (December 9th). Surely we must be embarrassed to see Ireland at the bottom of EU statistics "Eurostat" in terms of welfare and anti-poverty measures. A quarter of children and one-fifth of adults live below the poverty line and the gap between those in poverty and the rest of society has been growing ever wider.
As Mr O'Toole correctly points out the increase of £8 per week for most social welfare recipients is about what a TD or journalist would expect to leave as a tip in a restaurant after a nice dinner. That's essentially what it is - "a nice little tip".
Organisations such as CORI, St Vincent de Paul, Threshold and Barnardos struggle to be heard as they try to raise their voices on behalf of the poor. Theirs is not a fashionable message. People do not want to hear. Some of the surplus could have been used to reduce class sizes drastically. A recent OECD report puts Ireland second only to Poland in terms of adult illiteracy. Some 25 per cent of the population are functionally illiterate. Despite the fact that the country is awash with money education "Irish-style" continues to rely on sponsored walks, raffles and the generosity of parents' organisations to raise money for essential capital expenditure.
As I walked down Grafton Street last Friday, the sight of an 11-year-old boy attempting to sing cover versions of pop songs for money to pay for a hostel for the night is a painful one. Let's hope it never gets to the stage that the sight of youngsters bedding down for the night in shop doorways no longer has the power to shock us. Homelessness has risen by 60 per cent in the past three years. The measure of any man or woman is how they treat the less fortunate in our society. The old adage rings true: "By their deeds shall we know them".
Congratulations again to Fintan O'Toole. As always, he has his finger on the pulse of the nation. - Yours, etc.,
Deirdre Kenneally, Glanmire, Co Cork.