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Voice of Credibility

This morning I was writing a letter to propose certain actions for my local area.  They ranged from analysing support mechanism to business to see if they could be improved, bringing all local leaders together to create a think in process,  to developing simple initiatives to support people who are unemployed.

 

Half way down the page I paused.  I began to ask myself who are the organisations who already support businesses in the locality.  Would they object to my proposals?  Would they undermine me as they might feel threatened as encroaching on their space?  Would business people disregard this as a stunt?  The questions keep coming.  The problem is that I had too many questions and too few answers.  Clarity of who thinks of what  I say made me think, ahh maybe best to leave well alone. 

 

Before, I started to delete all the text I paused again.  This time I was a little annoyed that it seemed to me, an outsider, that not enough was being done.  I typed some more.  Before completing the next paragraph I looked backed to review the message I wanted to convey.  I found that what had set out to be of assistance was turning into an angry rant of the inaction and questioning why so little was being done by way of supports to local business, enterprise development and the community at large.

 

I paused again, this time for tea and to refocus on what I wanted to achieve, e.g. get things moving again.  Having stepped away from the laptop for a second to make this inspiring brew, I realised that my voice carried no weight in the community.  Who was I to suggest ways of progressing our exploration of possible opportunities?  Who was I to suggest what voids existed locally.  In fact who was I to say anything about where I live , when there are more educated, experienced and influential people out there to do the same.

 

With my cup in hand I starred at the screen in disappointment and some anger as well.  If I as an individual cannot propose something to the local businesses and community sectors then who really should.  Having reached for my networking list of experts and friends I came up with a few whose voice would be listened to in the first instance.  I contacted two of them and asked if they would be interested in proposing some measures to people from the locality in a gesture of good will and asking if people would be interested in getting involved. 

The response was not what I expected.

 

Both said         “Alan, they wouldn’t listen as they all feel they know better and think of all the toe’s we would be stamping on…good idea and something that could be of benefit, but realistically, they’d end up laughing at us… thanks but, no…”

 

The pinch of ultimate reality hit me there and then.  I felt my voice wouldn’t be heard and accepted as someone trying to help, and they felt exactly the same.  These were experts and have assisted many companies; organisations etc and they felt they would be laughed at.  We didnt discuss mone as it was going to cost nothing.  Therefore, what chance was I ever gong to have that they would listen to me or take my suggestions seriously?

 

I have always been told to think positively and I do try.  Being positive or proactive is often seen as getting into competition with someone else.  This is neither the case nor intention of anyone who has the greater good at heart.  I held my finger on the backspace key and resigned myself to letting them, those that seemingly know best, get on with it.

 

I have a sense of despondency!  For I now think, is my voice valid.  I mentioned this in a previous post about being unemployed and not being involved or listen to when it comes to policy making.  I feel exactly the same this time.

 

Yes, I do have a voice and I should use it, regardless of those who don’t want to hear it, don’t want to hear anything.  Those who refuse to believe that there are alternatives, all I can say is this is somewhat short sighted.

 

Having thought this a bit further, I think that it is time I sounded out the mood first before throwing my energy into a fruitless exercise.  I am at times more focused on the negative doom & gloom aspect of developing anything.  More often than not I am positive that we, not I, but we can change things in society for the better.  It may take someone taking a risk and failing, but it may kick start the rest of us to move progressively forward.

 

It is agreed that we don’t all have an equal voice this is correct or incorrect belief. It does however highlight that many have something to say that can be of worth, yet feel they should shy away and be quiet.  Society has made us that way and who need who now.  Society needs people who have valid opinions, indeed any opinions to share them for everyone to explore.  It’s not for judgement sake, but we may be missing some radical thinking or fantastic proposals.  There will be the undoubted less informed opinion or idea and yes there will be the occasional rant that we at times complete disagree with.  This is proper discourse.  Proper discourse affords the enlightened world the expression of free thinking and idea generation.  Should we devalue this by only having a select “voiced opinion” then we fall into the clutches of current societal norms. 

 

It is these norms that have compounded narrow thinking and lacklustre actions in Ireland in past 10 years.  We can only hope that progressive is not assumed as challenging but a necessary component of the future, where we are all heading!

 

2012 Challenges:

The New Year brings new challenges for everyone.  So how do we ‘ordinary’ citizens ensure that we progressively move forward?  The challenges will be many and varied and will cause much debate as to how best lift the fog that covers the nation.

What are these obstacles that prove cumbersome? The obvious one that affects everyone is the fiscal crisis.  Much has been speculated as to how best to tackle this, yet no clear plan has been proposed.  Yes many have mentioned new ways and old methods of equalising the debt burden.  Importantly though they haven’t made concrete proposal in writing or in a framework that anyone reasonable governing body can adopt. 

We are bound by a deal with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.  This ‘bailout’ dictated that we must reduce our deficit and cut national spending.  This is the key to the entire problem.  The EU IMF deal only instigates that we must cut spending and the deficit, it doesn’t and this is the key, bind us as to how we achieve that.  The IMF suggested various mechanisms that should be looked at such as our Social Protection Bill, but it did not say you MUST cut that department.  As far as they are concerned, as long as they get their return, they frankly don’t care how it’s done.  Therefore, we have some control over how we do it.  I would go as far to say we have full control over how we achieve this.  Currently as an ‘ordinary’ citizen I feel that the government are doing whatever EU/IMF tells them to do.  An absurd notion maybe, but little to suggest otherwise has been offered.

Given this there is full scope as how best we can save money, without squeezing the life blood from the economy and the people.  The term everyone has drummed into their heads is ‘bond holders’ and how they should be cremated at the stake.  Who would take the decision to burn the bondholders for actual fear that they might never invest / reinvest in the Irish economy ever again should this happen?  I know a few who propose this such as Sinn Fein and economic expert Constantin Gurdgiev of Trinity and the entrepreneur Declan Ganley of the Ganley Group.  Vilified in many sectors for proposing this, they continue to suggest that this mechanism should be, at the very least, properly considered. 

Declan Ganley has at the outset said ‘…purge the banks, create new ones and move on…’  I don’t want to paraphrase him, but in essence his plan is to rid us of the institutions that served us badly and create new institutions that can and will be run in a prudent businesses manner that can serve the national needs.  To my mind, if it were this simple then it would have been done.  It is this simple, but the ramification for our neighbours across the continent of Europe would be catastrophic.

David Mc Williams has written extensively about the trouble we are heading into.  He has often in the past been correct, so its only fair that he could well be correct into the future.  Should we then take more notice of his writings and at least ask for his guidance in developing something new in terms of real proposals. 

Eddie Hobbs has been the consumer champion for years and one of the most recognisable personalities on the circuit.  He has and continues to propose frugal means for tightening our belts. Having declared that the property bubble would bring us down, again he knows what he’s talking about.  Therefore, should we not be listening intently to his overtures.  Yes to listening to all, but a forum has yet to set itself up that we can record in a cumulative plan or strategy if you like to get us moving and protecting us at the same time.

I believe that sharing ‘pain’ for each country should be equal, but, if it means bringing down another countries financial system to save ours, maybe it is a risk we must take.  It is a risk, as bar the fact that we would be responsible for their banking crash, we would also be the pariah of the EU, of whom we currently lean significantly on.  Should we take such a step, we must be prepared for the unknown consequences of such a move.  This is why the government would not take such a measure.  Not because we could find ourselves on the fringes of the decision making, as we are currently already there, more so that our reliance on the EU is so great at the minute that fear of having no allies at all would render our economy useless and risky to any countries investors.  Nonsense I hear you cry! Nonsense this may be, but it’s like other proposals, it is a fear that currently drives our existing policies and policy derived by fear only instil further fear.  Policy is then made not to enhance standing or derive a dividend; it blocks and hinders positive progress on all fronts.  Failure is now they mainstay option that all policy is based against.  Lord knows this is a slippery slope to oblivion should social policy development be like this.

Fuel Poverty, lose of natural resources, the lack of a coherent and strategic framework are costing our country daily.  To the world at large, they look at Ireland, indeed the EU as states that are trundling along without a plan.  Causing uncertainty in everyone’s mind causes the ultimate implosion of the social fabric of our country for the lack of the singular concept of hope strangles us all.  I couldn’t believe my eyes before Christmas when business were advertising, after the budget, that ‘the light is firmly out at the end of the tunnel…’ and buy their wears now to beat the budget.  Not just in one add, but many used the p.r. mantra to get some trading.

Social Protection will come under even more scrutiny to reduce expenditure.  The public service sector and the Croke Park agreements will no doubt be challenged.  Then we shall see this sector in uproar.  The transport organisations will at some point slow the countries roads to a standstill and may go further and block the ports to make their point.  The household charges and punishments therein will cause consternation and disputes will grow even further. The additional closures of small and medium business across the country will bring more onto the dole cues, with more to pay out and less revenue generation to the state.  The airports will see more of not only our youth but adult population leave to support their families here at home.  The families at home will also face burdens that cannot be quantified from a social perspective or even a mental health perspective.  Our health system will in all likelihood see more pressure heaped on them with service delivery becoming more unequal.  Political reform will happen, but chances are not to our satisfaction or not to the extent reform should happen.  Riding us of the Senate will do little to ease the reform agenda or the increase the coffers of the state.

This list of problems could go on and on.

I have mentioned in previous blogs that our reliance on the exporting market is one that can’t sustain.  This is proving to be correct as various analysis’s are reporting the decreases weekly.  In 2012, growth is not expected to increase. The ESRI, who from my view have proved of little use, are now retracting some predictions as ‘over optimistic.  The OECD predicted a gloomier forecast than that of the EU suggesting that China were not going to reach their expected growth levels.

What that means for us is, well, here we go again, into another cycle of downward pressure.  2012 must be the time when Ireland stands up, not for its people internally (as we would expect anyway), but to use the opportunities presented to government to put Ireland back on the Global map of countries that do business appropriately, correctly and justly.  That in 2012 we shall see small growth and this small but significant step is a step in the right direction. Constantin Gurdgiev, Declan Ganley, Davis Mc Williams and Eddie Hobbs can all put their thinking caps on, produce something, and drag this nation with the governments shoulder behind them, into positive equity.  My bias for the experts mentioned is yes a bias.  But to me an ‘ordinary’ citizen their words have carried more weight towards the common man in understanding the issues we face than all the rhetoric by political personnel.

Yes I have focused on many negative elements here.  I do this to ensure that if we aren’t mindful of our failings we cannot elude or act positively.  There will be many positive stories in 2012, this I have no doubt.  I do hope that they wont be few a far between.  Many new businesses will be created as has happened in other economic downturns.  Many will find that Ireland can be a signal of hope, if the light at the end of the tunnel is in a state of readiness.  We might see our partnership companies receive extra funding to work more with communities.  Our bureaucratic system may be re-profiled making it more user friendly.  We may even see some tax incentives. We may see a lot of things, we may….

All of this is predicated against the we, not the them.  We must collectively try.  We can and on occasion fail, but try again.  If we leave it to them (politicians, government etc) then in all likelihood we may fail.  I won’t say we are all in this together, as we are clearly not.  If we had the opportunity to be together then maybe, just maybe we could all be the driver of growth in real terms.

What I will be asking of them and all of us is that we now grasp this year of 2012 to make a difference for me, them, us and the entire nation.  Should we at least try if we truly love this country for what it stands for?  I am reminded by our 2009 Rugby Grand Slam when a commentator said of a player that we won because of “…courage, fortitude and shear bloody mindedness…”  Oh to evoke this memory and instil this into the mindset of all of us to bound forth and grasp 2012 by the scruff of the neck and deliver.

Communities in today’s Ireland are a far cry from those twenty years ago.  Many of the future changes were for the good.  Some aspects were necessary, some not so.

Twenty years ago when I first got involved in community activism, local communities believed that they had a purpose and could add to the standard of living in an area.  Today this is often the reason many groups still operate.  In the 80’s there was a feeling that, ‘well if the government won’t do it, we will…’  Many of the community leaders we know of today came from this generation.  At the time, this was a difficult period of financial problems coupled with mass emigration.  Multiculturalism wasn’t a thought or globalisation an issue.  Jobless figures were constantly rising and the outlook was pretty bleak.

 

However, the communities got on with the tasks in hand.  Strategic thinking wasn’t apparent, nor was proactive action plans.  Committee structures were of the loose nature and meetings were held in someone’s house over a cuppa and a bit of cake.  Without having systematically analysed the problems they faced, they carried on regardless.  Yes they identified the problem using something of an unknown and little used concept today, Common Sense.  Common sense was used for most things.  Ideas were not tapped into an electronic devise to generate core outcomes or graphs.  Common sense was used to avoid making mistakes and people also used another little know attribute called ‘…using your head…’   These two basic concepts overcame many significant problems, indeed they contributed to what we have today.  But for this, common sense and using the head theory, our community landscape and voluntary sectors would be different beyond belief, primarily for the worse I’d suggest.

Having said (not identified as this is a process) what the problem was, they met to discuss how best to overturn or tackle this problem and in as short a time as possible.  Meetings had no structure, minutes & matters arising and note taking was a minimal thing.  Plans of action were simplified to ‘who could do the job’.  Participants of this unstructured committee gave many hours, but amazingly also, many had lives to lead and they led them.  Communities didn’t have to compete for funding, whilst grants were something of a new phenomenon, as yet uncharted waters by communities.

What is remarkable is that things got done.  Things happened and often the wider community didn’t know who done what.  Publicity for activities of what work happened, were a few people chatting outside mass of a Sunday mentioned something to somebody about what was needed and could they or someone help.  The end result was, things Happened and they didn’t take forever.  There was no consultation, no analysis, no auditing, no monitoring & evaluation and little paperwork if any.  The focus was ‘get on with the job and get it done’.

This doesn’t suggest that there weren’t issues or arguments, of course there were.  But there wasn’t a trouble shooting mechanism or policy to address every eventuality or conflict.  If there was physical work and someone cut their finger, there weren’t accident report form and health & safety officers to be informed. There weren’t claim forms and notifications to ensure doctor cover was in place.  There weren’t health & safety policies, or an authority to be informed for more severe incidents and not everyone had manual handling / health and safety / first aid training under their belt. They merely got on with it.

 

There wasn’t ‘a can do attitude….’ there was a ‘lets get it done attitude…’ Simply case in point.  A hole in the road, a large pot hole if you like.  I drove to the local authority works yard, asked if there was any spare tar around? I said, I would get a roller if someone could ‘throw over a bit of tar’.  Two hours later the hole was no more and didn’t re-open.  Of course I had to get someone to stop vehicles driving into me, but well that was it, job done.

 

If this was today in the 2011/12 year then it would/is a nightmare to get the same outcome.  Firstly you have to identify the road where the road surface has decayed considerably.  You must notify the road engineer either by email, fax, telephone or post.  Having identified the specific stretch of road, you must if required provide photographic evidence.  Once this is done, the internal mechanism of local authorities’ kicks in.  In brief, engineer must inspect and report to roads supervisor by whatever means as above (electronically normally) to place request for funds. Having completed specific proposal on health & safety considerations and traffic management implementation there is a budget costing to be completed.  There may be a necessity to bring the matter to a local area council meeting to get approval by councillors.  At this point I’m going to stop as you get the gist of the process, suffice to say it could take weeks of discussions, costing, time, energy and complete bureaucracy before anything is done.  Not to mention the hole in the road is most likely getting bigger and possibly damaging vehicles in the process.

I have never been adverse to doing things properly or strategically and yes including a value for money aspect.  I do have an issue of “bureaucracy gone mad”.  There seems to be an incessant need to over analyse and over complicate matters beyond what we would describe as normal.  Issues become larger than they should, and some reach public outcry.

 

Nowadays we look at the community & voluntary sector and how they must adhere to best practice principles, inclusive participation, gender quotas, operate anti discrimination and anti oppressive practices.  Groups need to be constituted and were possible have articles of association with no share capital.  In other words the state expects groups to be professional organisations and operate at the same level as they do.  The state also expects that groups can handle procurement matters and proper banking reconciliations, administrative & accountancy proficiencies.  The list goes on.

 

This may seem in some quarters as appropriate for these groups to be such, given they are getting public funds or materials.  However, the work to implement all the above diminishes the quality and indeed importantly the practical involvement of people in decision making processes.  For once to get a pot hole fixed was a minor matter, now it would be an administrative debacle.

 

There is another argument regarding the C&V sector.  Many view this sector as necessary to realise community needs as no one else is positioned to do certain tasks.  I believe, rightly or wrongly, that the growth in this sector is a direct consequence of the state inaction, disinterest, or not bothering attitude.  If the state were the all encompassing sphere of governance then they should have stepped up to complete the necessary tasks as identified by those within their catchment area.  This argument is for another time.

Much of the activities within cities, towns and villages across Ireland are based within the C&V sector.  Tidy towns, environment groups, family and community resource centres, care of the aged, sports clubs, neighbourhood watch and resident committees, festival & events committees, charity fund raising to mention just some.  Should the state be doing these activities?  They would most likely say they wouldn’t have time for these menial tasks. The evidence is they don’t want them anywhere near their institutions and the evidence is communities could do a better job if resourced to the same level.

Why is this?  In simple, the C&V sector gets on with it were as the authorities discuss and administer over issues before any real action is taken.  Wasting public money in these frugal times is frowned upon, but best practice seems more of a benchmark for delivering anything of value in our areas.

 

Worryingly society engages in issues that deflect the actual work and groups and institutions.  I mentioned gender quotas.  Go to a rural farming community and say you must have a 45% of your farm workers or farming forum female.  I don’t believe that it was ever an issue of keeping women out of such activities, naïve this may be, but to force groups to invoke gender quotas is not the way forward. 

Positive discrimination for a gender or otherwise doesn’t work.  Equality is and should be invoked as a fairness that no right minded group would object to.

 I remember organising a festival and someone mentioned having a bonnie baby competition. Objections to having children compete was for some too much, for others a separate prize for male & female was necessary and some mentioned the make up of the judging panel.  After all the details were literally hammered out, we decided not to have one as someone somewhere would be offended or even object.  Glamorous granny was also deferred due to what age a granny should be.  We have now moved into the political correctness gone mad.

 Having bureaucracy and political correctness we now have strangled the effect communities can have locally in any region of Ireland, even other areas across the world.  People say think big, act properly and produce locally with the global in mind.  I’d say, lets get back to the Common Sense and Using Our Head days that served us fine.

Unemployment, A Problem Un-tackled:

Being unemployed, is something that strikes at the heart of who you are as a human being in society.  The term conjures up negative thoughts when mentioned in any arena.  When you think of the word unemployed some words spring to mind.  Spongers, lazy no good nothing…, milking of the state, dole cheats and the wrongs go on.  Yes wrongs are what I said.  For being unemployed is nothing like many perceive.  It’s not merely about, as some see it, “sitting on our behind and doing nothing”.  Our full time job is to find and attain a job.  It is wrong to tar everyone with the same brush, but society as it is, generalises almost everyone in this group in the same vain.

If we do as we are told, do our schooling, earn our papers and qualifications and work then loose our job is it our fault?  I’ll address this more clearly later.  Back to the negativity surrounding being ‘unemployed’.  People, I believe, don’t choose to be unemployed.  If asked in a national school as we all were ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ have you ever heard ‘I want to be on the dole…’ NO, I don’t believe that you would hear this, for if you did warning lights would appear.  Nor do you ever see someone aspire to receiving benefits.  If it was, as people suggest, then there would no doubt be a course or 3rd level institution training people to get their benefits and remain unemployed.  So this argument that people choose, is incorrect and frankly somewhat absurd to suggest otherwise.

I know of people who don’t want to work, not because work itself will harm them but the financial imperatives in loss of benefits are too great.  Now this is not “I don’t want to work” but more ‘I fear what I will loose as a consequence of working’.  So a simple plan would be cut the benefits and they will all work.  Again no.  For this approach could cut those who cannot genuinely get employment and what happens then is the cycle of poverty is perpetuated even more.

Society does little to embrace people who are unemployed as viable people.  If an opinion is given, society frowns as if to say what would we know.  Society accepts the voices of other sections such as ‘voice of older people, voice of stay at home parents’ as viable voices.  Yet if unemployed, our opinion is taken of little value.  This is inherently wrong. 

The problems when unemployed are perpetuated by this negativity continually.  The self fulfilling prophecy of unemployment is ever growing.  In short “if you’re told long enough that you are stupid, then you will end up believing that you are”.  However the problems of the person who is unemployed are greater than just this.  Feelings of a lack of self worth, no self confidence, poorer physical health, increased mental health issues such as depression, higher possibility to have an addiction, significantly decreased social network (feeling alone even if others are around or experiencing the same), lower literacy levels as less opportunity to use learned skills in everyday environment.  Oh, lastly a comment of “…we are all in the same boat…” does nothing to make us feel better so please don’t mention this by way of comforting us.  This list is by no means exhaustive.  There are more difficulties facing those in unemployment.  Those already mentioned are none financial.  The basic needs of heat, light (both fuel poverty), food, servicing mortgage rents etc make being unemployed even worse.  Where you live also adds to this difficulty.  If you live in Donegal, you are more likely to become long term unemployed as opposed to if you lived in Dublin.

These are all legitimate elements in the life of a person unemployed.  Elements that society fails to or simply do not want to believe.  If you are in employment, you can nearly delete many of the above elements.  I would love to get into greater detail about the full myriad of issues, but the truth is you’d most likely not read to the finish, another societal reality.  With approximately 450,000 unemployed and some 75-80,000 emigrating in 2010, that’s over half a million; things do not show an economy turning.  I would argue that this figure doesn’t reflect the truer picture.  How people are recognised on the ‘live register’ figures is something that has never been effective measurement.  The live register does not include people on schemes or education courses such as a FAS course or a community employment scheme or indeed those who are unwaged.  I would put the figure closer between 750,000 and 1 million that are ‘really unemployed’.  As a person who is unemployed, I am annoyed at hearing the various legislators saying “we must invest in jobs…we will help those most vulnerable…we have increased activation measures…”  This is not, will not, and ca not work. Why, primarily as they are measures that have no flexibility in delivery, i.e. you must be 6months unemployed or on a specific payment to get onto a course etc.  Nor do they result in attaining actual full time employment, which most people either want to train for or enter into.

 

For me to be part of society I need to feel valued, currently I don’t.  When policy is made in the heart of departments in Dublin, there measures are based on misinformed theory.  The theory of “non involvement of people who are unemployed” If I were a Health Professional, most likely I would be consulted in some manner if changes were to happen within the health sector, if not the uproar would begin.  But, being unemployed, I’m viewed as having little or indeed nothing to offer to policy makers as “they know best”.  Simply put, this is Rubbish. 

If I had the expertise, personnel and budget at my disposal that government has then I’m sure I would make an impact.  Firstly, by involving those who these problems affect, yes the unemployed, would be at the heart of my policy making.  Not to throw money at us. Not to implement silly inconsequential measures, but to register their value as integral parts of our society.  To open up opportunities that really can make a consequential difference.  As I have mentioned before, rolling our real courses targeted at aspiring market needs, not thousand upon thousand of ECDL a very basic computer course.  This was the response when large industries left Donegal in the 80’s / 90’s to throw FAS at everyone to complete a computer course.  Ridiculous it seemed, and it turned out to be just that, ridiculous. 

Targeted approaches, with regional variations are a firm measurer.  E.G. I wouldn’t be overly promoting farming courses in Killybegs where fishing is the main source of income.  Not to suggest that some might not benefit, but target the people and not a blanket approach which is and has been the method to-date?  There is no “one size fits all” approach for people who are unemployed.  To get this message alone through to the policy makers would in itself be a measure, but alone it would have no impact.

Policy has focused on “Active Labour Market Programmes” i.e. Community Employment.  These have benefited huge amount of people in many ways, again, their value is undermined within the policy context as its FAS who oversee this and included in their overall budget.  FAS are a spent entity in my books and have added little to creating an employment sector. I won’t even mention the misappropriation scandals or the fact that the same level of personnel are present during the boom as the downturn!  The National Anti Poverty Strategy, a document hailed as something that would add real value to this discussion which placed obligations on department and the likes of FAS to actively tackle the problem, failed.  Why?  Implementation was sporadic at best, and for the most part ineffective as it needed the full buy in of department personnel.  It didn’t get this, as more problems internally were found that it proved to highlight more inadequacies than anything else.  The poor reflection of agencies inaction further compounded the problem.  A problem, that the powers that be, have failed, and failed miserably to tackle with any vigour.  Could I or others such as the INOU (Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed) do any better?  YES, we could have.  EU funding was primarily focused on peace building and infrastructural project.  All necessary and valued programmes.  The EU offered nothing to tackle the unemployment issue.  National Government itself paid scant regard to those on the fringes, only to cut payments to valued social schemes or payments.  Hardly a ringing endorsement of their intent when they do this.

Whilst on the over sea’s nature of many peoples argument, such as in Northern Ireland they get less in benefits than if living in the south.  Well, lets dispel some of this once and for all.  If commentators want to analyse this, they should do so by providing like for like scenario.  You wouldn’t liken Ireland’s economy to the USA, would you?  Nor would you say Irelands Health system should be compared to the Iraq system to give plausible arguments for or against.  Nevertheless, lets take some practical elements.

  1. If on a waiting list in NI (single male unemployed & on benefit), you will get housed in approx 6months.  In Ireland you could be waiting anything up to 10-15 years (if ever).
  2.  You get less actual payment on benefit in NI.  Yes, however they do not have the same cost of living e.g. utilities.  Many utilities (phone/equivalent ESB etc cost 21% less & they have more exemptions than I Ireland e.g. refuse collection etc)
  3. Winter payments such as fuel allowance are not available in NI.  Yes, however they get a yearly once off (annual) payment for heating oil. Last year during the winter benefit recipients in NI also got a ‘once off payment’ of £110 (adjusted based on means)
  4. The means test is more stringent in NI to get benefits.  No, the actual means equivalent in NI is much easier to qualify.
  5. Payments in Ireland are made weekly unlike NI.  Yes, NI get paid bi-weekly, however there are intervening payments that can be obtained if very necessary.
  6. Irelands unemployed get more allowance than those in NI.  No, on an actual like for like benefit, NI have extensively more assistance payment & methods.
  7. Ireland have a better level & amount of FREE training than NI.  No.  The waiting lists in NI for any course of comparison to our are approx weeks as opposed to qualifying periods in Ireland, such as you must be unemployed for 6months or 12 months to participate in the Tus Programme.

These are just a few instances of many that I can give.  So if we are to be compared to another country / jurisdiction then we should at least compare like with like to afford wider society of the REAL PICTURE and not a lop sided version.  Comparisons with similar systems in larger countries, even if different systems is ok for analysis purposes if we seek change, but as for like for like, then the authorities need to be a little more prudent.

This comment was not intended to be doom an gloom.  It does however highlight that the system itself needs an overhaul.  Overhaul in terms of who makes the decisions, how they operate, how they target, and importantly measured against the real figures of unemployment.  If this is not a benchmark then we do it again differently.  We must not just say this project isn’t working, as this is no longer a reasonable option. It must work.

 

To expand slightly on some of the options that could really encourage a decrease in unemployment.

  1. Decrease employers PRSI on a sliding scale for each new employee hired.
  2. Entrants into the employment market pay a similar sliding scale tax rate until full time employment is assured
  3. Benefit recipients can retain a sliding scale of welfare (as was with BTWA) for two years.
  4. Medical card entitlements remain for approx 13 months, and then reduced to a Doctor only GP visit card. 
  5. JobsBridge and Internship scraped.  Replaced with Trainee Scheme where employer pays Part Time minimum wage to employee.  After a qualifying period of one year employer must either higher or release.  If released, employer will not be able to apply to the scheme for another year minimum. If hired, employer can avail of additional PRSI exemption, but they must employ person on full time above minimum wage as per market conditions.
  6. Qualifying conditions for participation on any FAS scheme will be 4 weeks unemployed and same for any initiative.
  7. Long Term unemployed to be considered for government initiatives before new clients. E.G. if someone unemployed for 6months plus, he/she get first opportunity for course before someone 6weeks unemployed if a competition should exist.  If not the above Qualifying method should apply.
  8. Employers who hire personnel will receive reduced commercial rates.

 

The above propositions have not been costed by any department.  Common sense would suggest that these measures would not cost the state huge amounts, well nothing like saving the banks expenses.

Positively, we must as not just as society but as an entire nation, change our attitude towards those experiencing unemployment.  Attitudinal change costs nothing, actual change would cost to implement and deliver. We are valued members and have much to offer in these harsh times.  We can be a positive movement of change.  We can be utilised, if only given the chance too.

 Left un-tackled, unemployment may become insurmountable, but will remain a legacy of all administrations and maybe the question posed to children in school would be “…WHERE do you want to go when you grow up…”

Tackle this and Tackle this issue NOW.

It’s Just a Couple of EURO?

It’s just a couple of EURO:

Ireland of today has adopted an interference theory of ‘big brother proportions’.  There was a laissez fair attitude of government & regulator to the banking system in the past 10years.  Yet we see there increasing control & interference of government in each of our lives because of this attitude.  This lacks of regulation is now being paid for by the ‘ordinary’ tax payer and the ever hard pressed welfare recipient.

To add to this new approach, additional taxes are being introduced to everyday life.  Regardless of how you introduce or dress them up, these are taxes.  Something that no economy in the history of recessionary times, whenever downturns existed, has worked to pull an economy out of recession. 

Tactically the new “Property Tax” is a stroke of genius. Cynical view this is in jest.  However, whilst the government is supposedly bound by the EU/IMF structure and supposedly this is one of the measures that the EU/IMF want introduced, it is something that many find unpalatable.  The economic return of €160million is paltry. 

In the July to September period of 2011, the revenue commission took in €93million in underpayment, unpaid and none payment of tax.  Should the revenue commission carry out a systematic review for the entire year of 2011 and previous years, it would be fair to suggest that it could cover the property tax bill of the nation for the next 3 years.  This isn’t the point all the same. 

So to look at this in a fairer manner we should break down the possible impact of this tax.  The Taoiseach said “…its only €2 a week…” If this is the proposed method for all future tax initiatives it doesn’t hold much credibility.  €2 per week may seem a small sum, but coupled with other charges the actual bill soon adds up.

Approx figures for average household

ESB:               

€720 p.a.                     €13.80 per week         (based on €120 per two month cycle  for average home)

Heating:

Oil       €1320 p.a.       €25 per week              (based on 1,500ltr oil @ €440 per 500ltr)

Coal    €220                €4.61 per week           (16wks coal €15 per bag spread over 12 months)

Home Insurance:

€240 p.a.                     €4.61 per week           (as described in a below average quote per home)

Life Assurance:         

€120 p.a.                     €2.30 per week           (some have build in with mortgage)

Rent / Mortgage:

€5,500 p.a.                  €105.70 per week       (based on a small average mortgage / rent)

Food:

€1,560                         €30 per week              (above average as many cant afford this)

Clothing:

€194 p.a.                     €3.73 per week           (based on 2 of shoes/jeans/socks/jumpers/t-shirt  & 1 coat for 1 adult at discount stores e.g. Penny’s)

T.V. Licence:

€160                            €3.07 per week           (based on only 1 t.v. in a house)

Refuge Collection:

€120                            €2.30 per week           (based on 1 bin per 2month (6pa) cycle at €20 per bin)

So the per week the average is €190.51 for a single adult person.  This does not include motor car insurance, tax, fuel, NCT & parts, mobile phone / home phone, internet, alcohol or any other social or leisure activity.  This does not account for any other payment that may arise such as health care etc and loans.  So if this is the benchmark should any additional charges (TAXES) be added people on welfare will be not only over the current payment of €188, but also further compound the problem.

Now, I mentioned earlier that this was a stroke of genius.  This is set within the context that, should the economy recover, the then “Property Tax” can either be abolished or amended, thus proving political masterclass indeed Master Stroke.  As it will be the government saying we scrap this scheme due to their fiscal policy and fighting for the people.  On the other hand it also opens the door to reconfigure the property tax to be lucrative in it will be rolled out in a different guise aka “poll tax in Britain”

Yes, this tax depends on many factors coming together.  Political opponents say they wont pay, yet I cant see them incur the penalties such as a €2,500 fine.  If I or others on welfare, low wages took the same course of action the fine itself could debilitate us and mean that something or other has to give.

We shall see if this will be the straw that breaks the camels back or it will as with many stealth taxes to-date, be resigned to its just another annoyance and we just pay it, remains to be seen.

To Be Part of Europe Project, Yes or No?

The ongoing debate of whether the euro zone can remain as it is intact of all existing countries and possible accession states is the question that each national leader is pondering over.  For the people watching there is much confusion as to possible outcomes.  If there were a referendum in Ireland on any new agreement, the mood on the ground would be more negative than positive towards such a vote.

Our experiences of referendums have never been clear cut, Maastricht and Lisbon needing two national votes to be passed.  Our apathy to changing the statue quo on anything in Ireland has been derived out of suspicion, some based on fact some based on speculation.  Which ever way you analyse this another referendum will not be any clearer to the voting public.

There are bigger questions, admittedly posed to throw our status into question, which has never been answered in a comprehensive manner.  Do we as an Irish Nation want to be part of the EU of not.  This question should not strike at the heart of our ambitions, expectations, or allegiance to the EU project.  We can be united with our neighbours within the EU without being minor partners of the EU.  The arguments for and against are many, varied and valid.  Is it better to be within and fight your corner or be outside fighting from the fringes?  No defective answer can be acclaimed.  The E.U. concept has significant merits, however like the role out of any initiative it has flawed delivery.  Was it primarily a financial union sought or something more federal aligned they were looking for?

Financial union in itself is a moot point for many, having to give up fiscal control to viewed foreign authorities, even though our appointees / government would be at the heart, never thrilled the business community in Ireland.  Dare I suggest that it was greater than the fiscal union idea that has brought Europe to were it is.

As with any partnership there needs to be equal status for all members regardless of their means.  Unfortunately this was never really thought through.  The dominant powers in the markets e.g. German & French economies wanted a greater say in how structures should be managed.  They wanted to create a somewhat unequal partnership, were Ireland as a small nation would have less voting rights that them, due to the size of their economies.  Coupled with the ever niggling of the U.K. in exercising their veto the project has seen this project rumble from problem to problem.  The UK for their part never liked the idea of giving up control of their currency as they can increase or decrease the pound value dependent on market pressures.  The euro cant.  The UK whilst having problems of political infighting and their commitment to the EU project has always been overshadowed by the “are you in or out” statement.  They want the best from the EU yet want to give up little by way of collateral to defend it remaining the overriding power structure.  They do however have autonomy.  Autonomy to buy into what serves them well and opt out of what doesn’t.  Yes legal frameworks have not been fully implemented as the European community desired, again the UK maverick outlook on this doesn’t affect their mindset or sense of britishness.

Ireland accession in the early 70’s was hailed as building a strong bond with the powerful which would bring significant dividend to us, indeed the wider European community.  It has, but at what cost? Again the partnership model as envisaged then (70’s) was of equal share, unlike now a serious imbalance in 2011 speak.  Speaking to people I hear rhetoric such as “…the Germans want to rule Europe without firing a single shot…” and “…the French only want to ensure their own banks don’t fail, because they are over exposed in Ireland etc…”

These comment don’t really go to the heart of the issue.  Not to say they are correct or incorrect, or even misguided and silly arguments.  They are what some people feel. The Irish have now been forced into looking like the whipping boys (girls) of Europe.  We do as we are told given the bail out we received.  Our fiscal destination is controlled by large euro powers and left to the our national government to implement what these powers want.  Fiscal control in one thing, what more will be on the cards if we revolt.  Would we get the Greece treatment? 

Watching news broadcasts over the past number of months, you get the growing sense that the EU powers do not want to see this project sink, more for self interest than any resounding common allegiance for their neighbours or letting the ‘family break up’.  This, a cynical, simplistic view! This may also be of comfort to the UK who have witnessed the power shift with interest.  Commentators frown on the UK standpoint.  Maybe the UK are positioning themselves not only as some saviour of the project, but also as the ones who kept the project from being dominated by Franco German interests.  This hasn’t been a view shared by anybody I know, yet as with many political stunts there is always an underlying motive.  The UK motive may be as simple as keeping the euro sceptic on board, but I feel that there is more to it than just this. 

The substantive question of do we want, indeed need, to be part of Europe is a simple question in the light of the above.  That answer is yes.  Yes, but with the precondition of complete and unconditional equality.  The benefits to Ireland are numerous.  I wont comment on the Lisbon message rolled out by all political parties bar one, to vote for “jobs, jobs, jobs”  What I will say, being on a border region within our own Island, we have benefited more than lost.  We should have NOT lost anything like we did, but the flip side of the argument was that we did get structural, peace building, infrastructural funds which may have never got.

The various clauses Ireland got enshrined such as VRT etc have only furthered the sceptic in us.  If this, most unique, project falls, will we as a country be thrown into more chaos than is the current situation.  Maybe, maybe not.  The EU/IMF bailout would be addressed differently in that bond holders would not be the overriding concern.  The repayment scheme might also be details at the discretion of our government and not the other way around.  The “punt” may arise again.  It wasn’t a great currency before, but in some small way it was ours and we felt we had money when holding a twenty pound note.

I’m not advocating we leave or run the risk of being banished from this project.  But we MUST affirm our status as an equal partner.  We must assert ourselves as Europeans from Ireland.  We must re-establish our governmental rights as a nation, a sovereign nation.  To finish this comment, I will return to my mantra of we MUST stand up for our nation and PEOPLE first before all others.

STATE of the Nation address: A Missed Message.

The state of the nation address by the leader of the present government, Enda Kenny TD left many feeling anger and all the other emotions that people have tweeted and blogged over the last number of days.

It was viewed as a softening the impending budget austerity speeches to be given by Michael Noonan minster for finance.  This was not the intention.  The intention was to address the nation and spell out the state of the nation as it presently operates.  Unfortunately, it proved to be little of any comfort to the people, given they already know quite well how we are “fixed”.

 

Given there hasn’t been a state of the nation address by a government leader in approximately 25 years, there was distinct remembrance to the last one.  Then we were told by Charles J.Haughey that we “…must tighten our belts…” and that “…we are living way beyond our means…”  Maybe we should have re-run that entire broadcast as it mimicked much of sentiment that was pronounced by Enda Kenny.  The only difference was that this was against the backdrop of a global crisis unseen for decades and the obvious one that it was a Fine Gael leader and not the Finna Fail one.

 

Historically when we hear of state of the nation address we believe that it will be something that not only captures the mood of the time but importantly offers “it’s nation HOPE”.  President Obama orates to the USA with eloquence and with firm belief in the cause, a cause of a nation together.  Indeed his speeches invigorate millions to act in positive ways.  It eludes hope and the belief that they as a nation will overcome.  Objectively, he reads a state of the nation address every year in the upper houses of the senate, i.e. to the political parties which passes off without much bravado.  However, when he broadcasts to the nation “live” people take notice.

One of the most infamous speeches was delivered by Martin Lurther King know as the “I have a dream” speech.  This captured the world and has thee most downloaded speech in History of the net.  It has been printed in every language and can be bought in every country in the world, I even have a copy of it.  What makes the speech so significant?  It reverberated across the peoples continuousness.  He spoke eloquently and with integrity about the things the political leaders didn’t want to hear.  He spoke truths that were hard to comprehend and crossed people’s beliefs systems in terms of race, gender and national pride.

 

What Obama and King did not do, was to speak condescendingly to the people.  Commentary by the people on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and other social mediums, inclusive of the tabloids, have all but laid this notion on Enda Kenneys speech.  When saying to people that the current crisis “…is not you’re fault…” he did exactly that.  The vast majority of the people were incensed by this as WE KNOW WE DIDN’T CAUSE THIS PROBLEM.  The speech has derided by many and made fun of in many quarters.  Regardless of autocue cameras and hours of carefully written speeches by personal aids and public relation gurus, it didn’t warrant any credible applause.  Did it warrant the people to make fun of it?  Again given the lack of perceived sincerity and understanding for the how people felt, then maybe.

 

Often we hear ‘the devil is in the detail’.  The detail of this speech was, well, rather non descript.  It lacked any clarity of how we can change and improve our country.  It offered no hope that we as a nation will survive.  Its did not resonate with the ‘ordinary’ voters.  It did make cross channel news reports on BBC and ITN.  Their political correspondence were left somewhat in a flap when asked to comment on it.  Why? Probably as the content did not meet any criteria of a progressive speech.  I don’t believe that it will go down as speech that enthused the people, nor do I believe that it has damaged beyond repair Enda Kennys reputation.

 

What I am more disappointed about is the lack of a coherent message.  A missed message that could have at least tugged on our common sense and ensured that the people watching felt, yes he’s right.  The public relations stunt had no impact whatsoever.  Harsh words maybe, but this is all it can be viewed as.  The lack of a positive message, coherent focus, and constructive plan makes this speech non-descript in anyone’s book.  I don’t believe that the students of today will be rushing to their libraries to plagiarise or quote this in any thesis or any work of note.  It will sit like so much of Irish political policy, on a dusty shelf.

 

A message missed in that, we were misguidedly hoping that he would shine a light for the end of the tunnel.  Act as a beacon by which we could or might follow.  Deliver the basic concepts of “we shall once again as a nation prosper”.  NO.  We got ‘…it’s not your fault’.  Jobs, jobs, jobs, yet for many we couldn’t decipher were these jobs are coming from. Could you?  Cuts in former leaders pay.  Big deal, as this didn’t warm the cockles of my heart to know they would be deducted a mobile phone allowance.  Maybe they will get a pay as you go now.  Yes that’s how ridiculous this speech was.  As I watched it with some expectation (albeit little expectation) we couldn’t but help turning away.  We glanced back briefly in the hope that he may something of substance, but to no avail.  Afterwards we stuck on the kettle and someone said we missed some programme on another channel.  The youth watching it as well, calmly played on their laptops and smirked at us watching what they called ‘rubbish’.  Yes, this speech will not ignite the young intelligent people to look at politics in another way other than to spit at it with the contempt that this may rightly deserve.

WE SHOULDN’T FEAR BUDGET:

Unlike many commentators who warn of what may come in the Budget, I would suggest we don’t fear what’s ahead.  For weeks we have been talking in homes and places across the country about the impending cuts and additional indirect taxes that may be imposed.  The government cleverly leaked some huge hikes in various taxes as a softening the blow come Budget day(s).

I don’t believe everything that has been doing the rounds lately given the government would fall if we were to believe everything that was mentioned.  There is, undoubtedly some difficult decisions to be made.  It is no secret that the usual suspects will be hit e.g. social welfare, car, fuel.  So WHY should we be surprised?  My 39 years on this planet has given me the capacity to realise that no matter what government is in power the people who are most vulnerable will be hit proportionally harder.  What is particular annoying is statements like “…call to patriot duty…” or “…we must all share the pain…”.  Statements like this only ensure that those marginalised feel more hurt when the inevitable is delivered on budget day.

If plain English was used and the truth was to the fore then maybe, just maybe people could discuss the merits of or against a budget.  Sectoral interests can be equalised insofar that we would all know and understand how each sector would be hit.

 

What makes people fear is the non stop speculation and, over the last number of budgets, the unclear message sent out.  When the tax system was individualised few could understand how their tax would be calculated, why not put it simply.  When the minister decided to implement additional taxes after their speech was delivered in Dail Eireann, and then people were even more mistrustful.

 

So as budgets go, they will come and go with the usual provado of Td’s flapping papers in the air to support THEIR finance minister.  There will be the usual USELESS debate afterwards.  There will be the usual broadsheets & tabloids printing what people will loose or gain and the usual ‘giver outters’ of which I will most likely be one of them.

 

Fear of the Budget is not a reasonable offering.  It should be FEAR OF THE POLIICIAN, who doesn’t listen, support and understand their electorate.  As I type this I know that I will be hit with some stealth tax or something that will underpin why I remain in the position I’m in.  The budget part 1, is due within the next hour or so, yet my emotions are focused on what hardship or sector will be hit worst.  As I type this I really feel for those who fear a budget.  As I type I know the REAL budget of each household will be overshadowed.  As I type I grow even more angry at why the political people we elect continue to treat its people with a legal form of contempt with no possible recourse open to us.

 

For each we should not be fearful of Budgets.  Budgets, are something, that are a way of life on an everyday basis for most families in ‘modern’ Ireland.  It’s the scant regard the political classes have for us as citizens to have a input into the budget that is more a concern.

JOBS – North West Comment!!!!!

How to create jobs where none exist is a significant problem for the government.  There are many avenues that could be tapped into but I stress that its not the usual suspects that will turn Ireland around.

Recently over the past ten or so years the obvious housing boom is viewed as the main culprit in dragging Ireland into the bust scenario.  The amounts spent in research and development have proved little by way of increasing the job intake within the state. Now this generalises comment is against the backdrop of overall “actual” jobs created as a consequence of he r&d projects.  IDA have for nearly too long decided to seek investment within the r&d field for existing operations in Ireland.  To this end the benefit to the state in terms of revenue generation is paltry given the investment inclusive of EU funds.

So where should we look.  In Donegal we were renowned for textile and other manufacturing industries.  In the mid 90’s and 00’s we seen this sector decimated with the likes of International firms Fruit of the Loom, Herdmans, Gaeltex all close. Approximately 3,500 – 4,000 direct and 500 – 1,000 indirect jobs were lost to the local and regional economy.  The then minister responsible for enterprise Mary Harney decided to evoke a Task Force method to see what local actions and IDA could bring to the employment table.  The actual spin off was a mere increased usage of FAS service to, yes you guessed it, roll out more computer courses of a very basic nature.  This was the answer to all our job losses, in their words.

 

Various strategies were documented and many had some excellent ideas of how best to tackle the issues.  Many were funding dependent, some were given to organisations to advance i.e. Donegal County Council.  The idea was good, but the delivery of this was always aspiration and ultimately what it did create was the north-west notion of being on the periphery of the country and compounded by the “up here it’s different”.  Different in it is more difficult to get the IDA to positively discriminate for the north west or any other state / semi sate organisation to proactively push the region.

Getting back to creating jobs.  We lost these jobs, but never sought investment from the government to replace the funding and re-brand what we had, i.e. one of the best textile producers in the World.  It wasn’t about replacing these jobs, merely refunding them that could have answered quite a bit of our unemployment figures.  From then and since the IDA has had a net LOSS in job creation in the North West, often defended by thee IDA and now more so than ever with the downturn.  We call all list the problems, but few are putting forward ideas, plans or even exposing possible opportunities.

The North West MUST start looking at manufacturing again, some product development, some initiatives that gets into local areas and affords people the chance of gaining employment.  Investment, the good old problem, needs to be addressed now in order to provide effective plans.  Yes I have concentrated on textile without mentioning the fishing industry – farming – natural resources – r&d  and the myriad of sectors we are good at.

 

Private service sector and public sector jobs are the only ones keeping Donegal & the North West afloat. Not to suggest that there isn’t any other sector doing well, but the primary ones are as above.  If these decline, what we now view as a serious problem? will become unimaginable.  Our response will be even tougher on all fronts. Our capacity to tackle this would be hindered, possibly beyond repair.  I don’t want to imagine a time when we are reduced to giving butter and meal vouchers to people as we once did in the 80’s.  We in the north west have traditionally had the highest unemployment figures in Ireland and the lowest disposable income per person & household, followed closely by Kerry.  This continuum has not been broken before or during the boom and now we are in bust situation the trend continues to expand. Politically we haven’t been served as well as we could have been.  Can we be served any better by the current political parties remains very much in the Imbalance that exists.

Focus of current policy is on exporting.  This has short term gain as when the global economy gets going the world markets will re-develop their own capacity to produce and become less reliant on imports.  Unlike us, we are hell bent on exporting with our imports still increasing.  We need more self sufficiency, produce for ourselves to decrease our reliance on imports.  When the export market stabilises, we need to then look even more closely at what we are producing and unfortunately we could do lots more on this front.  Investment is one thing, but visioning by Government, indeed the business sector is even more important. We have seen recession come and go in the past, we have learned significant lessons from this time.  We should not wait until the economy gets worse before we tackle this problem.  We have the capacity, knowledge and PEOPLE to do this right now. If we see the dissemination of all sectors even more, in the north west, then we might suffer even more than in the 80’s.  A fate we shouldn’t visit on our people AGAIN.

People Need Protecting!!!

I have just visited this site and realised that my first post will be on the ever testing Downturn.  For many weeks and months we have anxed over how best to solve the problems that people face daily in Ireland.

Unfortunately being unemployed / unwaged our increasingly disturbed tone of our once strong voice, is now falling on deaf ears.  It is understandable that the currert FG/Lab government must make complex decisions given the state of the nation.  However, as with making any progress there must always be some sector that suffers.  Which sector is something that the powers that be e.g. Senior Department Secretaries and Ministerial personnel often shy away from the ones they believe will take the “pain”. 

To simplify this, if the government cut the Dole of someone unemployed, he / she / they will not have the means to fight back by mass movement against the proposed chage or legal recourse as the expense and chances of getting a legal representative to fully-whole heartedly fight the case would be ni imporrsible. 

If, however, the government, cut or taxed the richest 5% of the population by some 15% per annum or cut the wages of the top civil servants including all politicians there would be one of a number of fall outs. 

1.  They wouldnt stand for it and ensure that the government seen sence.

2. Would take court proceeding and ensure that the process held up any changes for years

3. Chances are it wouldnt even be considered or thought of in the higher offices of which we all depend.

4. No politician wants to do the right thing for the poeple as within the political circle it would be political suicide (strong term used in context) 

 

So what is the answer?  Well when i was working, or when i wasnt, i was always of the opinion that the people experiencing the largest deprivation, social exclusion from participating fully in Irish society, those on the margins and fringes, yes you gussed it, those on welfare or unwaged.

Now to clarify, when i speak about some on welfare or unwaged, i do so under the auspices of people who want to work, who want to contributem but cant for various reasons.  Those who claim and work – thats another issue of concern that comment is reserved for later. Those who defraud (in a greedy manner) should be stopped and cannot be attrributed to the honest people. Yes i said greedy, as some people defraud because they cant get near enough to keep their heads above water with large families, mortgages etc on the current system.

I have never advocated for increases that allowed people to “shop to they drop” but provide enough to live some level of comfort.  When we speak of the State and go back to the time when the State was viewed as the “Third Parent” within the family, oh and this is still the constitutional obligation of the state, then we as a exposed people need protecting.

Is or will there be a plan to address the needs of the people or indeed a strategy to protect the people.  I would hope so, but the evidence of the current government doesnt inspire me to beleive that there is.  I would go so far to suggest that whilst quite a bit of lip service is given to the aspirations of “looking after the vulnerable in society”, there is in effect no plan and a strong possibility that there wont be one either.

Who can we ask to formulate a plan, ourselves?, maybe.  Maybe, as we fought to have a voice, we should express this.  Regardless, we need all within the state of the Republic of Ireland, to encourage the those in power to Protect the People.