Posts Tagged ‘Government’


 

On Friday October the 4th, 2013, the Irish people are being invited to cast a vote on two constitutional amendments.

The first proposal will ask ‘if you agree to the abolition of the Seanad’..The second will seek permission for a ‘Court of Appeal and other changes to the court system’.

In order to minimise confusion, we shall address the first proposal only, which is the issue of the Seanad, the Upper House of the Parliamentary system.

So let’s begin,

Essentially, the FG/Lab Coalition Government, are leading this charge to abolish the Seanad, on the basis of cost and efficiency. The Yes campaign claim that abolishing the Upper House will save 20 million euro, the No side claim the figure is closer to 8 million euro. Either way, holding the referendum is reportedly costing the taxpayer 14 million euro. However, the cost argument, is neither well founded, transparent, or accurately proven. Neither side has accurately produced figures in a clear accessible documented form, that will allow scrutiny by the very people being asked to cast their voice on a potentially massive constitutional change.

Nonetheless, let’s work with the Government line, that the Seanad is costing the taxpayer 20 million euro year on year. The Upper House consists of 60 Senators:

  • 11 nominated by the Taoiseach
  • 43 elected by five panels representing vocational interests namely, Culture and Education, Agriculture, Labour, Industry and Commerce and Public Administration
  • Six elected by the graduates of two universities: – three each by the National University of Ireland and the University of Dublin (Trinity College)

The No campaign have recently stated that over 500 recommendations, additions, and amendments to Bills, have been conducted by The Seanad since the formation of this current Oireacthas (parliament).

So using the Government (unsubstantiated) figure of ’20 million’ , that means, that each Senator comes in at a cost of 333,333 euro, or that each Bill has cost approximately 40,000 euro.

Alas, to use such mathematical factors would be to miss the point though, for the more accurate figure is the cost to the individual taxpayer. In a workforce of circa 1.8 million people, the Seanad works out to cost the individual taxpayer a very manageable 11 euro per person, year on year. (based upon the Government position of an unsubstantiated, or transparent costing, of the figure of 20 Million euro).

11 euro a year?  The price of a cinema ticket and popcorn? The price of a couple pints? Less than the monthly cost of a TV License? One fifth of one G.P. appointment? The price of a decent 12 inch pizza?  …….and we are being asked to abolish it on a basis of cost?

It is clear the cost argument just doesn’t hold up, when using the highest figure of 20 million euro, which by the way is 0.03 cent per day.

So it must be the efficiency factor then, surely…? Alas, as efficiency is more often than not tied to a cost coefficient this seems to be an argument with little legs to support it.

No,the elephant in the room of spin, (and let’s remember that when it comes to ‘spin’  the Dail (Lower House) appears to be streets ahead in this art, than the Seanad ever has been),  is the role of Democracy in our society.

Is the Seanad a perfect Democratic institution? No, not by a long shot. Is it a Democratic institution? Yes. technically speaking. Is its abolition a Democratic strengthening move? No, it cant be, when its purpose is fundamentally to be a watchdog over the Lower House, as has been proven through its debates, amendments, recommendations, etc..

It’s abolition will bring less democracy, and the Lower House will become less accountable.

The Government proposes to ‘replace’ the Seanad with ‘citizen committees’ when it comes to reviewing Bills, etc. Now, this may appear to be a noble exercise, however, firstly, we haven’t been given any notion of what these committees will cost the taxpayer, secondly, we have not been clearly informed of who will make up these committees, and thirdly, not one member of these committees will be accountable to the public. So we may in fact  be left with the vista of legislation being informed by unelected political cronies,..ergo, less democracy, unaccountable and uncosted.

Reform to the Seanad is definitely required, the removal of Taoiseach appointees, and the direct election by all citizens of the State, are but to name just two, although there are many more other changes to be discussed, albeit, we are not being asked to reform, we are being asked to abolish.

Getting rid of politicians because we don’t like them, cant trust them, have been ‘nailed to the cross’ by them,  or because it is a rare chance to give them a ‘bloody nose’, is not a very good reason to abolish a fundamental house of Democracy, they are reasons to exercise your vote to hold them to account at each election.

To put it into a contemporary context:

In Nairobi this week, criminals killed many innocent people, they holed up for a while, but were eventually removed, dead or alive, however the shopping centre was not bombed into history, just because it was an unsavoury place for a while….. its lower levels and upper levels were kept intact,

 

However you choose to cast your vote on the 4th of October, is your choice, all that is asked is at what price?

As shown, 0.03 cent a day will be your saving, if you choose to abolish the Seanad,

 

But at what cost?

 

Voice

 


As the continuing austerity measures roll on, it is leaving in its wake a wash of disbelief, despair, and utter hopelessness. The latest of these cuts is the abolition of the Mobility Allowance which, although not defined by legislation, was set up to assist people who were disabled and who would ‘benefit from a change in surroundings’
Further information on this allowance can be found via this link from the citizens information site.

Mobility Allowance:

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/transport_and_disability/mobility_allowance.html

Now before we go into the reasons why this allowance has been removed, lets just take a look at the effect of such an act.
The allowance is provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and therefore by extension comes under the office of the Minister for Health, Dr.James Reilly.

The effect of removing this allowance from people that have already been approved for such a supporting payment has to be frightening to those recipients to say the least. However, there is another effect that bubbles away in this sickly cauldron of the cut and slash policy brew, and that is, the effect of how such thinking permeates throughout the greater societal demographic.

In an ideal world, everyone would happily get along with their lot in life,making the best of their situation, and endeavouring to improve it whenever opportunity chose to present itself. Governance, as we know,is far from perfect, however, it should also attempt to carry a similar ethos, which is, to try to improve the lot of its people. It is such pursuits that engages society, franchises its people, empowering them in the knowledge that a reasonable equity and fairness will become manifest through honest contribution.

Unfortunately, this act of removing support from people, that I for one would not ever wish to exchange lifestyles with,has had the opposite effect.

Besides, the emotive bursts of anger and sadness, society is also left with the question of ‘how’. How have we come to this?
How have we, as a society, come to the place of, seeing those in need as being low hanging fruit on the economic burning bush?

This allowance is classified as 208 euro at the high rate, or 104 euro at the low rate, per month. An overall cost apparently of 10.6 million euro per annum to the taxpayer. in a workforce of circa 1.8 million people, the cost is 5.88 euro per person, per year. or if you prefer, more or less the price of a pint.

The price of a pint?

So, we as a society, have come to the juncture, whether we like to admit it or not, that our disabled people will lose a much needed supportive allowance,that even the most hardest hit I believe, would be happy to sacrifice the price of a pint for. How in the name of God, can our elected representitives even think this is acceptable?

They say they have removed the payment upon advice that it is discrimiatory to people over the age of 66, so is paying an 18 year old less unemployment benefit than a 25 year old, as is seeking Gender Quotas.

Oh yes, it is discriminatory all right.

And disabling.

All for the price of a pint!

Voice


A letter has been sent out this week to many Single Parents in Ireland, or as the Dept of Social Protection calls them, Lone Parents.  Now this is not unusual, as many people in receipt of Social Welfare often receive correspondence from the relevant Depts, according to their welfare needs.

So, the communication, is not at issue here, but the content is:

The letter is notifying Lone Parents of the changes made to their allowance, which were announced in the now long forgotten Budget of 2011. And it not pleasant reading at all. The Dept website has a copy of this letter, which can be viewed here:

http://www.welfare.ie/EN/Schemes/BirthChildrenAndFamilies/OneParentFamilies/Pages/opfp.aspx

Now, let’s take a look at these changes, a Lone Parent, whose payment is more or less, about 30 euro above the unemployment benefit (in the case of One child), has now been told that they can earn no more than 130 euro a week before their allowance is effected, the previous figure was 146.50 euro.  A reduction of 16.50e.

This roughly translates at 15.02 hours per week at the minimum wage (8.65) for an adult over 18, http://www.jobsguideireland.com/minimum-wage-rate-in-ireland/

Now, if our Lone Parent wants to try to improve their lot, and due to the restrictions that single parenting can manifest, they may avail of a training scheme of 20 hours per week through FAS, which would provide a further 188.00 euro, or that should be, used to provide that amount. http://www.fas.ie/en/Allowances+and+Grants/Training+Allowances/default.htm

For you see, the new changes to the Lone Parent payment, have put and end to that, it states that a ‘dual’ payment is no longer an option. Some may say that’s a great thing, others may say, it is a retrograde step.

Another massive and really quite stupefying amendment is that from 2015, any child over the age of 8 years of age, is no longer considered worthy of support by the state, or am I reading that wrong? Think about it, an 8 year old child, through no fault of their own, in their third year of primary education, is not worth supporting……. a saving by the government that will carry a cost into tomorrow’s future…….

It is important to state at this juncture, that how an individual has arrived at being a Lone Parent is not in question here, Bereavement, Seperation, Teen Pregnancy, among others are all part of the equation, and not the responsibility of the vulnerable child.

So let’s summarise what the government are proposing:

1.A Lone Parent, if working, will be penalised for trying to create a better living within the confines that single parenting creates, by working.

2.This same parent, where once being able to offer their skills on a manageable time basis of 20 hours per week, through a FAS course, is now being told, they can have one payment or the other, but not both. In any one’s language, as the payments are more or less the same, it is clear, that the incentive to work,or upskill, has been removed by such thinking.

3. As of 2015 a Lone Parent with a child over the age of 8 will be considered neither Lone nor a Parent by the state, as no supporting payment will be available.

So the conclusion I have arrived at this this:

A Lone Parent is often excluded from the work force due to requirements and demands that  confront the single parent, and therefore, are unable, in many cases to sign on as a JobSeeker,  which is a requirement to avail of a FAS Training course, and when their child hits their 8th birthday, both the Parent and child will find themselves left in a void of non existence according to the state.

And the government are proposing to hold a referendum later this year, that enshrines the rights of the child into our constitution….

Dept of Social Protection?

Perhaps it may be better described as the Dept. Of Social Rejection!!!!

Voice


It has often been said that the greatest asset any nation has is its people, its citizens. For they are the very ingredient that is necessary for any thriving economy. The population of any country are the lifeblood of its economic fluidity, it is the oil that makes the ‘machine’ run smoothly, allowing it to operate in a constant rhythm of production and achievement.

In 2012 the state of the Irish Economy is such, that the oil ,that has kept this machine running, is fast running out. The Economic presses are grinding to a halt, and the government are refusing to even acknowledge the possibility of the machine coming to a premature end. Instead they are seeking to drive the production line to breaking point whilst at the same time refusing to maintain the machinery.

How so. you may ask?

A simple look at the unemployment figures of approximately 450 000  will help prove this point. A single adult on Jobseekers allowance will receive around 188.00 euro per week in Social Welfare.

Now, if we assume that this adult has a car which is generally required for the ability to engage with employment, then we can say that the running costs of fuel alone will be reasonably 40.00e p/w, coupled with tax and insurance costs, another 20 euro(conservative) can be added to this. so that’s 188.00 – 60= 128.00 euro remaining.

Electricity p/w can also conservatively be estimated at 20.00e p/w so we now have 108.00e remaining.

The choice of heating, be it oil, gas, electric, can also be estimated at 20.00e p/w depending upon weather, and many people have taken to buying 25 litres of kerosene on a weekly basis as they can no longer afford to buy a ‘fill’ for their tanks. So if we accept this figure of 20.00e then we are left with 88.00e remaining.

Now, so far this single person has a car, taxed and insured, as by the requirements of law, they have power so they can at least wash themselves and their clothing, and they have some form of heating to help keep them  somewhat comfortable during the cold nights that Ireland has on a frequent basis.

So with the remaining 88.00 euro, a citizen, must buy some food obviously. Now over seven days this would equate to an average spend of 12.57e per day, or if you prefer , an average spend of 4.19 per meal  @ 3 meals a day. Not impossible to do, but after a while, I am sure our friend will become very tired of Pasta, toasted sandwiches, and cereal, day in day out.

Now, some expenses that havent been included here are: Rent/mortgage bills, Life insurance (required by mortgage holders), House and Contents Insurance, Clothing, Mobile/Landline Phone charges, Birthdays/Christmas gifts, and dare I say it…entertainment expenses. Factor in the possibility of children into this persons life, and yes their payment may increase a little, but as we all know, a child can be a financially demanding reality.

Now our poor unemployed person here is also facing new taxes, depending on circumstance, of the Household Charge, Septic Tank Charge, Water Charge, Broadcast License Fee, and ever increasing Petrol/Diesel prices, and no doubt, increasing utility charges.

So how does this translate into the running of the ‘machine’?

Well, my local ‘corner’ store and my local butcher both today said ‘it is so quiet out there…..’. as in, no one is spending, the butcher even went as far to say ‘you could see a tumbleweed blow down the street….’. The Corner store man said, he has ‘never known it to be so quiet, and it is happening over the last two weeks, trade is coming to a standstill’.

So it appears the Mandarins in Government House, all who are on decent salaries, benefits, and pensions, are so far out of touch, that they honestly believe a charge of 50 euro here, and 100 euro there, will only marginally effect people. Maybe they are right? If those people are on similar pay scales and conditions to them that is, but at least 450 000 people will be affected severely by these charges,  and will be pushed to the margins indeed.

As stated at the beginning of this piece, the greatest assets of any nation are its people, and it is incumbent upon any government to create the atmosphere for job creation and growth, not to stifle it.

So if we read between the lines of our unemployed friend, He drives a car, to buy food, goes home, and uses little heat, and electricity, cannot afford to go out, and does his best to remain  positive. He has done no wrong, but he has been stripped to the last by these stealth taxes. And as a result, so too has his local businesses been affected by his inability to spend, and so too will their suppliers, and so on and so on…..

He was once seen by this country as a ‘Ripping Asset’ but alas now is seen only as worthy of “Asset Stripping”

Voice


(This post was written  on 6/12/2011 and has just found its way to the net!!!!)

Today in Ireland we wake up to the news the the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton T.D.  a Labour Party politician, is proposing cuts of 700 million euro from the Social Welfare budget. So let’s take a look at what this may mean to the very people that this may effect.

A ball park analysis will show that Ireland’s current spend on welfare stands at approximately 21 billion euro per annum, which we are told is about one third of total government spend. Now, although this appears to be high, we0 must also remember that we are in extremely difficult  economic times, which has resulted in record unemployment and emigration. The current unemployment figures stand at around 450 ooo people.

It is accepted that not all Social Welfare spending is allocated to the unemployed, but it is presumed for this discussion that unemployment will be found as a factor in most Social Welfare payments. So let’s work with our figure of 450 000, as a guide to discussion.

If the Minister was to directly cut each of these recipients evenly to meet the proposed savings of 700 million, then this would translate to a reduction of approximately 1550 euro per annum, or if preferred about 30 euro per week, for each person. If we accept that a single person receives roughly 200 euro p/w then their payments would be reduced to 170 euro p/w.

I accept these figures are not entirely accurate, as some payments are indeed less, and some some are more, but it is felt that the figure of 200 euro p/w is a reasonable and workable one for this exercise.

Now, a reduction of 30 euro from a payment of 200 euro, works out at a 15% cut, which in anyone’s language is quite substantial, and in this case, the most vulnerable of society are being asked to accept. The Minister may well argue that saving 700 million out of a spend of 21 billion, is only a cut of 3%, and therefore marginal in the overall scheme of things. This is where I will tend to differ, for it is the effect of such cuts that will have an impact, not the mathematics. Such measures, no matter how well dressed up, may well tip many people over the edge, which will have a massive economic cost to society into the future, through psychological breakdown, depression, addiction, black market, family dysfunction, educational prospects, to name a few….

However, the Minister, may just be working from the basis that any saving made is in fact Protecting Society, which would be an interesting interpretation of Social Protection.

Now, an interesting article found on the web this morning, from the Irish Times, dated the 15th May 2011, The Richest People In Ireland http://www.therichest.org/nation/sunday-times-richest-people-in-ireland/ shows that the combined wealth of the 1000 richest people of this nation, at this time, was approximately 396 Billion euro. And before you think this voice is anti rich or anything like that, let it be said, I envy not their wealth, I celebrate their good fortune and presumed hard work in getting there. No, the point is this, in a time of harsh economic recession, we are all asked to contribute, and a simple small sacrifice by just 1000 very wealthy people could make a massive change to 450 000 people struggling with poverty.

How so?

If 700 million euro is to be found from somewhere because the Social Welfare budget is straining, and knowing that such cuts will affect the vulnerable, then a simple tax upon this wealth will harm neither the rich or the vulnerable, surely a unifying concept indeed?

If these 1000 people were to support or be taxed to alleviate the Social burden currently upon the taxpayer, then  it would amount to a payment of approximately, or if you prefer a cut to this overall grouping, of 0.176% , which in anyone’s language is far less substantial than a 15% cut being proposed upon the vulnerable of society.

Maybe I have the math wrong,or maybe I am misinterpreting the Definition of Social Protection, maybe the assumption of protecting the vulnerable is a foolish premise to take, perhaps the the Dept would be better served with the title, Dept of Social Elite Protection……

Voice.


A very frightening and sad statistic emerged just this week in Ireland via an article by Jim Cusack in the Sunday Independent, that is , that Ireland has experienced 30 known suicides so far in the first 15 days of this new year of 2012.

http://www.independent.ie/national-news/thirty-suicides-already-this-year-from-all-walks-of-life-2989298.html

As, the article states, suicide in Ireland is now  responsible for approximately three times as many deaths than road traffic fatalities. To any casual observer, this as an astonishing figure, and an unacceptable one to say the least.

The Frontline program on RTE last evening http://www.rte.ie/player/#!v=1131292 (Monday 16th Jan 2012) attempted to discuss this issue, and quickly moved from suicide to the topic of depression. And although not unrelated, they are in the opinion of this Voice very different animals indeed.

Depression effects , depending on which research you choose to follow, in general one in every four people of a population at any given time. Some research suggests this to be as high as one in three. Either way if we work with the 25%  factor, then from a population of 4.5 million in the ROI, that equates to approximately 1,000,000 people (conservative) are experiencing depression at any given time in this country.

If the current rate of suicide as stated by Jim Cusacks article, is to continue, then it is safe to assume that Ireland will experience over 700 deaths by suicide in 2012 alone, figures for 2010 record suicide at 456 deaths, and so, 2012 may well see approximately an 80% increase in just two very short years.

The government have ‘promised’ to place an extra 400 Mental Health care workers into the field to help combat this situation, but as yet their exact role and skills have not been defined, are they counsellors, psychiatrists, administrators, who knows??

Either way, with 1,000,000 people experiencing depression, 400 extra staff, although better than nothing, surely falls well short of the mark in tackling this phenomenon.

I could go on here, as it is a very complex issue, and invokes many differing views, but one thing is certain, without the fine efforts of voluntary groups such as The Samaritans, Console, Aware, GROW, Pieta House and others, many people would be left to suffer alone in silence.

The people that engage with these support networks, and overcome their difficulties, do so in spite of government ignorance, not because of government support. Many others prefer to seek private personal therapy due to the demands upon these volunteer networks.

If the government continues to impose the savage taxes and cuts of Austerity, do they realise that they are taking, possibly, the very money from the pockets of at least 1,000,000 people, who have sought and engaged with private personal therapy, that has helped and supported them through their difficult times.

Remove that money from these people, and Jim Cusack may well have to work overtime to update his figures.

Voice

THREE WISHES

Posted: November 20, 2011 in Prose
Tags: , , , ,

THREE WISHES

 1. So they say we’re in recession, well what the heck does that mean?

The government, try to convince us, that it is a societal vaccine,

A dictionary definition defines it as an act of ceding back,

Whilst my granny’s fight for her medical card brings on a cardiac.

 

2. Ceding Back?…. Oh come on!.. Did we ever cede ourselves forward?

Now I know that progress has been made, but has it been all that straightforward?

My granny said, as she lay prone, as her heart ceded back its beating,

“My life is flashing…..I recall great music,… Mozart, not Ronan Keating!”

 

3.”And wait!” she crowed, as her heart beat slowed, she was now in the realm of impunity,

“I have a vision, a distant memory, oh yes it’s an image of community.

” So she lay there drifting, like a government, ebbing in and out of conscious thought

And mumbled something about a trolley, and dignity she was taught.

4. And as I sit past midnight, with my granny and her failing heart,

She props up on her elbow and says “here’s the crazy part…”

“I cleaned your clothes on washboard, when you were just a child,

I chopped the wood for fireside, and was granny, and I smiled.”

5.”An indoor toilet was a concept, for ours was found in the backyard,

And sometimes I miss those things I had, just like my Medical Card!”

I recall, in haze, for my heart beats weak, when I cleaned and wiped your small backside,

The joy of Dev, our Kerry Blue, who never left your side.”

6. I listened once, I listened twice, and I knew the heart had stopped,

But the heart was mine, and not my gran’s, for on the elbow she still wasl propped,

“What’s wrong son?” She gently probed. “What is it that you’re thinking?

” I lay her down and comforted her, and felt her body shrinking.

7. “Gran!” I said. “I love you deep, and trust me, this is very hard,

Your legacy is not lost in me, not like your medical card.

And my time, sometimes, is taken up, with the backside wiping of my clan,

But rest assured, the person that I am today, has something to do with you Gran.”

 

8. “I know they never let you take a job or let you have the vote,

And through it all, you ne’er complained. You just kept the ship afloat.

Now I know that life is different now, sure I’m more concerned about my ipod,

And in your day, your main concerns were food and heat and God.”

 

9. “Three more beats.” she says to me: “Use each one as a wish.”

And I realise now in hindsight, she was gifting me, wisdom on a dish,

I held her hand, her last warmth, and her last breath filled the air,

A privilege, A privilege, A privilege to be there.

 

10. Wish one.

That she is now at peace, and reunited with Grandad Joe, That the love they shared here down on earth is filled with afterglow.

Wish Two.

That every ounce of knowledge, wisdom, and compassion that she showed me, Is not wasted on another’s Gran, left to die on a trolley.

11. Wish Three.

Is now your possession, and it contains three wishes for you,

To grant as you see fit,

so see what you can do,

And as this is also my last wish, I feel my heart is beating hard.

So,

I wish for the grace of God,

and Gran,

and her right to a medical card.


On the 27th of October the Irish People will be asked to vote for two constitutional amendments, one on Judges Pay, which has been addressed here before (“You Be The Judge”), and two, on granting powers of investigation to the Oireachtas, the Parliamentary houses of the nation.

So let’s take a look at the second amendment.

On the surface the concept seems reasonable enough doesn’t it? The Government being able to investigate matters of public interest? On the surface, it may be reasonable to suggest, that a referendum, is not needed to do this, surely the numerous committees that have existed to date, have had similar powers of investigation. And if passed, any findings, so called ‘findings of fact’ will not be held as criminal convictions.

So what is the purpose of this amendment if all it can do is investigate a person in ‘the public interest’ and ultimately say ‘a la Monty Python….”You’ve been a naughty boy, now Go Away!!!”

Let’s assume that all this is well and good, then we have nothing to worry about surely, or do we?

A few questions have arisen for this voice in regards to this amendment.

Who defines the public interest?……Umm, that would be the Government.

Does this position the Government, in certain cases, above the courts of the land?

If a person has been brought forward before one of these inquiries, and a court process is to follow, how can they honestly expect to receive a fair hearing before their peers?

If the Government has the power to ‘seize’ papers, computers etc….. what happens to this information after such investigation has been held?

What happens, if as proposed by this present government, if the Seanad is abolished, does that mean all of the power of investigation is handed to the ruling party of the land?

Does this mean that someone who is critical of, and perhaps damaging to,  the Government, and speaks out via social media such as twitter, facebook, Blogs etc… can be investigated in the ‘public interest’?

 

There are more questions here, than answers, and it surely is in the ‘public interest’ to have this issue debated far more than it has been to date.

 

Alas, however you decide to vote, I hope you have made your inquiries into this amendment, in the ‘public interest’!

 

Voice.