Monday, March 04, 2013

Kenny's Irish Times Article Drove Me Around The Bend

It is hard to believe that a Taoiseach of this country could write the drivel that Kenny wrote in the Irish Times of 4 March 2013 and it is equally hard to believe that the Irish Times printed such dross. Below are Kenny's comments and my personal responses to them.

The Government is dedicated to working with the people to build on the progress achieved in the last two years

Response: You are not working with the people; you are actively working in defiance of the people, whom you betrayed by transferring private bank debt to sovereign debt and by repaying speculators and gamblers for unsecured debts.

Two years ago, Fine Gael and the Labour Party were given a clear mandate by the Irish people – to take the necessary decisions to achieve economic recovery and to get Ireland working again.

Response: You were not given a clear mandate by the Irish people; you and Labour lied to the people and clearly failed to live up to the promises you made. You cannot pretend not to have known because the books were open to you and you knew the facts.

While I acknowledge that we still have a long way to go, it is clear Ireland is headed in the right direction and there is light at the end of this tunnel. Our international integrity and respect for our country have been restored and there is now a clear incentive to build on the progress made.

Response: There is no light at the end of the tunnel, unless it is from an oncoming train of more debt, repossessions, more taxes, more levies and reduced spending on public services. And for all public servants, July will bring disastrous further cuts in their incomes, leading to a huge shrinking in economic activity.

Two years ago, the economy was in freefall, jobs were being lost by the thousand, our banking system was on the brink and Ireland’s reputation was in tatters. We set out our clear plan for economic recovery and have been working hard to deliver it. Working in partnership with the Irish people, we brought a new stability to the economy and to our public finances.

Response: You are not working in partnership with the people and no amount of repeating this lie will make it any more believable; you are working in clear defiance of the people and using every means possible to intimidate and threaten them. Spying on them; threatening their livelihoods; raiding their pay packets and bank accounts; threatening their homes.

That plan is working.

The sacrifices of the Irish people are beginning to pay dividends. Confidence is returning. Foreign direct investment by firms is at a 10-year high. The economy has returned to modest growth for two years running. Irish exports are at all-time highs. The flow of investments in new jobs by multinational companies is strong. We have seen the first annual increase in employment since 2008. Long-term Government bond yields are now at less than 4 per cent, down from a peak of more than 14 per cent.

Response: I’d love to know where the dividends are going. I have certainly received none of then. Bankers, politicians, insiders and consultants in Reilly’s empire may have; but not me or many people I know. The increase in employment rate is because of emigration, which is destroying the fabric of this country.

The new stability and confidence have been hard won. To get interest rates down and attract more investment into the economy, we have had to rebuild our international reputation for responsible financial management. Ninety per cent of the fiscal consolidation is complete and borrowing is on target to fall to below 3 per cent of GDP by 2015.

Response: You must be joking about confidence. There is no confidence, only despair at the crushing austerity that is destroying our people and our nation. Who do govern for? The Irish people or German banks? You have betrayed the people.

We renegotiated the interest rates on the bailout loans to reduce the long-run cost by €9 billion. By getting rid of the promissory notes and by liquidating Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide, we have cut our borrowing requirements by €20 billion over the next 10 years.

Response: You did not get rid of the promissory note – you merely changed the terms and turned it into long term bonds. We still have to pay back every cent. Do you think it is appropriate for the Taoiseach to lie in such a blatant manner to the people? Oh, I forgot, you proved you do by your actions during and after the last election.

Other banks have been recapitalised and restructured, with new boards and management teams. The bank guarantee has been ended, some stakes in the banks have been sold, deposits are flowing back and emergency central bank funding is no longer needed.

Response: And now those same banks, bailed out by the people, are going to descend like vultures on people in trouble and repossess their homes. Bankers’ remuneration remains disgracefully high.

At the core of the Government’s strategy is the creation of jobs for our people. While the unemployment problem has stabilised, I acknowledge that far too many people cannot find work, or have had to leave the country to get a job. Our aim is to make Ireland, by 2016, the best small country in the world in which to do business and to create jobs.

Response: You are destroying jobs in the public sector and creating economic conditions that will further erode jobs in the domestic economy. "Unemployment problem?" It's a crisis, Enda, not a problem. If I hear that you want to make Ireland “the best small country in the world in which to do business” again I will scream. I see you are now adding in “and to create jobs” because you see the devastation that your policies are having on job sustainability and creation. Oh – and leaving the country is called EMIGRATION! Get it? EMIGRATION. Why don't you make it the best small country in the world in which to live? Wouldn't that be a more apt aspiration, one that thought of people and not just business.

We protected our 12.5 per cent rate of corporate tax, and cut employers’ PRSI. We have driven implementation of the Action Plan for Jobs designed to make it easier to protect and create jobs, and have recently published a further 330 actions for 2013, including a new subsidy for employers who hire people who have been long-term unemployed.

Response: Window dressing.

Banks have been set ambitious lending targets and the Government has put in place a loan guarantee system and micro- finance fund for small businesses that would not otherwise have access to credit. We announced a €2.25 billion stimulus in job-rich public infrastructure projects.

This strategy has started to turn the tide. From a position where Ireland lost 250,000 private sector jobs in the three years before we took office, new figures last week have shown that private sector employment has grown on average by 1,000 jobs a month in the past 15 months.

Response: The tide is not turning. This is utter rubbish. People are in despair. How many people are emigrating every month?

We have also taken actions to protect the most vulnerable. We reversed Fianna Fáil’s cut in the minimum wage to make sure people are better off in a job than on welfare. We kept our promise to protect primary weekly social welfare rates. We enacted new personal insolvency legislation to help families in mortgage arrears, and other distressed borrowers, reach a fair settlement with their lenders while staying in the family home. We excluded 330,000 of the lowest paid from the universal social charge.

Response: You have not protected the most vulnerable; you have simply made far more people vulnerable. By excluding such a large cohort from USC you are, in effect, coming back to the same well – the squeezed middle class – to suck up more grossly unjust taxation. What planet are you actually living on?

We are also reforming the political system and public service to make it more effective and efficient, and to make sure politicians and top public servants share in the sacrifices being made by the entire country. We have cut politicians’ pay and expenses. The number of TDs will be reduced at the next election, the Dáil has increased its working days by 30 per cent and the people will have their say on the abolition of the Seanad later this year.

Response: You are making a tiny reduction in the number of TDs. The number could be slashed in half and there would probably still be too many of you. You are not worth your salaries and expenses. When, exactly, are you getting rid of the Seanad? By your actions and constant attacks on public service workers, you are destroying morale in the sector. Working conditions are desperate in many places and all goodwill will be lost after 1 July. And, as usual, you and your cronies in Fine Gael and Labour are scapegoating and demonising public servants.

We are overhauling the local government system, including cutting the number of councillors by more than a third. The Constitutional Convention has been established to look at other changes needed to modernise our system of governance and rights.

Response: You are continuing to strip powers from local government and you lead the most reactionary government in modern times. Your actions and threats in relation to property tax; water charges; septic tank charges; invasions of privacy, etc, bear all the hallmarks of oppressive fascism.

Despite the necessary budget cuts, we are protecting key services, including the health service, by improving productivity, cutting costs and squeezing out waste. Approval of the new public service agreement by union members will be an important step in achieving this objective. Twenty-one State bodies have been fully rationalised and many others are on track.

Response: You are not protecting key services. The cuts in home help, for example are punitive and are having terrible impacts on the lives of those needing care and those caring for them. You have recently abolished the mobility allowance, which was a disgracefully cruel action of an uncaring government.

The economic recovery cannot be allowed to bypass those families most hurt by the collapse. In the year ahead a number of priorities stand out.

Response: Are you serious? Your austerity measures are destroying families.

We will do more to help people back to work, including through further reforms to the welfare system to activate jobless households and by establishing NewERA and the Strategic Investment Fund on a statutory basis to invest €6 billion in strategic sectors.

Response: On the one hand your policies are destroying the economy and jobs and on the other you are promising money for investment in “strategic sectors”. I will believe it when I see it. You and your government will not be happy, I suspect, until there is not a secure job left in Ireland and we become Americanised, with people needing multiple insecure jobs merely to survive.

We are working closely with the banks and the financial regulator to accelerate the work-out of the mortgage crisis. We will exit the IMF-EU programme, while sticking firmly to a path of reducing borrowing and debt to sustainable levels. This is essential if investor confidence is to be copperfastened.

Response: You are also about to unleash a wave of repossessions on people. You failed to bring in a personal insolvency system similar to other countries, but went for another job of window dressing. You will not let people out from under the cosh of financial oppression by banks, in particular.

This year will see the introduction of a local property tax to fund local services. This is a fair and jobs-friendly way to raise revenue needed to close the Government deficit because, unlike income tax, it does not penalise work and effort.

Response: This is perhaps the most deluded statement you make in the whole article (but did you actually write this drivel?). If you had reduced taxes on work to the same amount that you are imposing property tax, this might be believable. But you are actually raising taxes and cutting public sector wages at the same time as you are imposing the property tax. Where do you think people will get the money to pay the property tax? Out of their wages, of course, if they are fortunate enough to have a job. And, giving the lie to your “jobs-friendly” assertion, you intend to directly rob workers’ wages and bank accounts if they cannot pay. This is perhaps the greatest abuse of power and of the citizenry that had been undertaken by a government in recent years. Your zeal for punishing the people and hoovering up every spare penny they have (actually, there is no spare cash for most people) is breathtaking. Shame on you.

Throughout this crisis, the patience and support of the Irish people have been instrumental in turning our country around. As I travel the country I am always enthused by the energy and commitment of the communities and businesses I encounter to move out of the crisis we inherited.

Response: You hold power in defiance of the Irish people and you use draconian legislation to subdue them. You must be well protected travelling the country because there is a seething anger among the people. Listen to the radio; read the papers; listen to people in conversations in work, clubs and pubs and you will see how much anger there is. Watch this video of your Minister for “Social Protection” (what a laugh that is) being run out of a shopping centre in Dundalk at a sham “jobs fair” and you will see how much anger there is. A far cry from your “energy and commitment of communities and businesses”. People are seething with anger; don’t you get it?

I am committed to continuing to work in partnership with the people as we build on the progress we have achieved in the past two years.

Response: You are not working in partnership with the people; you and your Labour lackeys hold power based on lies and on the betrayal of the people. Don’t accept the public sector pay cuts? We will legislate. Don’t have as much power as your work colleagues? We will use it as an opportunity to divide and conquer. Don’t pay your property tax? We will raid your bank account and pay packet without your agreement. Don’t register for the property tax? We will use the spy in the sky to get you. Trouble paying your mortgage? We will repossess your property. Incur a minor traffic offence? We will heap penalty points on you and make sure your insurance goes up. Yep, that's partnership alright!

Together we will get Ireland working again.

Response: This whole article is a disgrace and is nothing but the worst and most blatant form of government propaganda. Even you cannot seriously believe the drivel you have put your name to here. The work “austerity” does not appear once in the article; neither does the word “emigration”; “suicide” is not mentioned either although there is a clear correlation emerging between increasing cases of suicide and your austerity programme – your government is costing lives.

There is despair in the country, all because the people have been forced by you to shoulder the burden of bondholder and German bank debt. Shame on you for writing this utter nonsense and shame on your government for continuing to mete out your terror on the Irish people. You and your government are a disgrace and you should go now and let the people have their say on your true actions and intent, and not on the lies Fine Gael and Labour uttered at the last election.

Monday, February 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Labour TDs

I gave the Labour party my first preference vote at the last election in the mistaken belief that it represented working people. Since taking office, your government has escalated and intensified a vicious austerity programme on the nation; transferred more debts of private banks and speculators onto the shoulders of individuals and households; caused unemployment and emigration to soar; further and dangerously exacerbated divisions in our society; and demonised, victimised and scapegoated public servants above all other groups. Now, using the threat of unjust legislation, your government is about to impose further savage wage cuts on public sector workers, which will bring many to or over the brink of financial ruin and, I have no doubt, as a result of which some will succumb to suicide.

As a so-called “higher paid” public servant (though gross salary bears no relation to net salary), I should have reasonable expectations of an ability to service the debts and outgoings I legitimately incurred throughout my career based on my earnings. These latest cuts will have a devastating impact on my life and on my family. Thanks to your government, the mortgage on my home will now go further into arrears, a situation I was never in before in my life. Effectively, the debts of bankers and speculators will have been transferred to my mortgage account.

As it is, adding all taxes and levies together, I already pay 50% tax on every cent I earn. Add in VAT; car tax; petrol duty; NCT costs; carbon taxes; TV license (are we allowed have a TV in Noonan’s bleak house?); excise duties; insurance levies; and all the other charges your government is imposing and I am probably giving over 80% of every cent I earn to the state.

On top of all that, you have already or are about to introduce septic tank charges; water charges; property taxes; increased healthcare costs; punitive and disproportionate systems of fines; and scurrilous invasions of personal privacy by threatening to raid people’s bank accounts and pay packets to forcibly steal the property tax. So, in total, this will probably bring the amount your government is stealing from me to about 90% of everything I earn. This is simply unjust and unsustainable for individuals.

Where do you honestly think that I and thousands like me will get the cash to pay these exorbitant taxes while suffering further pay cuts? When will I have given enough? I have nothing left to give, since you have already taken almost everything from me. There is no more discretionary spending I can cut (although it seems Michael Noonan will not be satisfied until every household in Ireland is in darkness and we all wear sack cloth).

And, in sinister Orwellian fashion, you are mining and collating personal data for purposes for which it was never given and using geo directory technology to spy on the nation’s citizens. A fascist government would hardly dare to be so brazen in the treatment of its citizens. But I suppose such actions come easily to your government partners, the Fine Gael blueshirts.

I have had enough. If I were younger, I would join the tens of thousands who have already emigrated and wipe the dust of this country from my feet, never to return. However, because of my age I will probably have to stay in this most unjust and callous of nations – a country that embraced austerity with a vengeance and that is ensuring, through your government, that every last drop of blood is sucked from the people to pay debts unjustly placed on their backs.

Your government rules this nation in spite of the people, not for them. The bond of trust that should exist between state and citizen and between employer and employee has been broken. You have destroyed the fabric of our society in your zealous pursuit of austerity. Howlin sometimes looks and sounds like he can barely contain his pride and joy at the devastation he is causing to decent people and to loyal workers. He and his colleagues in government make “hard choices” for which we, the people, have to pay the price.

You broke your election promises to a degree probably never witnessed before in the history of the state and you have no mandate for your current policies and actions. If Labour had any ounce of morality and decency left, it would walk away from this discredited government now and give the people the opportunity to pass judgement on the reign of austerity and economic terror that is being visited unjustly on this nation by you and your Fine Gael partners.

However, our day will come and the Labour Party will be decimated at the next election, which cannot come soon enough for me.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taxpayers' Money and Priory Hall

I was listening to Matt Cooper this morning on Today FM's Very Last Word about the subject of the Priory Hall residents. I have complete sympathy for the people in Priory Hall and the predicament they find themselves in. Those who rented there may have been able to move on rather than have to rely on Dublin City Council to provide them with alternative accommodation. Those who bought, however, are in a different position; they have mortgages and entered into private contracts with the builder, so I can understand that they are in a really bad position. In the circumstances of the evacuation, it seems reasonable that Dublin City Council should have housed them in the short term under emergency provisions; but, in the long term, I would expect normal contract law to prevail, although the builder appears to have been declared bankrupt in the UK.

Dublin City Council, correctly in my view, is appealing to the Supreme Court a decision of the High Court that is must house the residents and pay the accommodation, storage and rental differential costs incurred by the residents. According to a report in the Irish Times, the Council is doing so because it "was concerned about the implication of such orders for the taxpayer and for its role as a fire safety authority." There are serious points of principle and law involved here, and Dublin City Council is right - indeed, it has a duty - to appeal the decision. Were the High Court order to stand the implications for a public body in relation to a private contract - and the responsibilities being placed upon the public body - could be enormous. Lawyers for the residents are expected to oppose the application.

None of these matters concern me, as such. The residents found themselves in an awful position last Christmas and it was right that something was done to look after them. While I know that the circumstances they are in are far from good, at least they are out of those awful properties.

What annoyed me about Cooper, in his interview with two residents, was his criticism of Dublin City Council for "using taxpayers' money" to take the case to the Supreme Court. He ignored entirely, of course, the cost to the taxpayer of housing and providing for a group of people who entered into a private contract for the purchase or rental of property at Priory Hall. I know the issues are complex, relating to fire safety inspections, building regulations, etc. But it is the knee-jerk reaction of Cooper - now typical of so many journalists and commentators - to instantly criticise, in throw-away comment, public bodies (and in many cases public servants as well) for doing what they believe to be right (and in this case, I think they are doing the right thing) that really galled me. This was a one-sided treatment of the subject that ignored the huge cost to the taxpayer of dealing with a problem that was, essentially, a matter of private contract.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be Specific and Tell Us More, Howlin

The reported statement yesterday of Labour's minister without portfolio, Brendan Howlin, that many parts of the public service are "not fit for purpose" would have done the master of black propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebells, credit. Like his Fianna Fail predecessor in Finance, Brian Lenihan, Howlin attacks public sector workers and uses non-specific (what does "leaner, more efficient, better integrated and responsive public service" actually mean?), sweeping statements to blacken the good work and reputations of public servants all over Ireland. Then Fine Gael's Minister of State, Brian Hayes, added to the propaganda with more claptrap today.

The softening up process has already begun and it is now clear that there is an agenda for further cuts in public sector pay being worked through by the new Fine Gael/Labour coalition, no matter what sacrifices have already been made, what wage cuts taken, what redundancies already achieved and what efficiencies already delivered. And, just as in Goebbels' time, the Government will find willing allies among the media; serving and retired (particularly) academics; commentators; political hacks, and the capitalists that destroyed our country, all of whom are happy to jump on the propaganda bandwagon for their own gain.

Kristallnacht for the public sector cannot be far away.

And, recalling their dismal failures of the past, I have little faith in organised labour to come to the defence of workers when the assault begins.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Business and Politics

I am sick to my back teeth of the constant calls from so many people for politicians to come from a "business" background. We heard it endlessly throughout the general election and I have just heard it again on RTE Radio, in relation to the Presidency, from some guy called Johnny Fallon. Apart from the fact that business people, in the main, wrecked the country, we need people in politics who have broad vision and can understand and represent all aspects of Irish society, not merely the economic and financial ones.

Politics is not simply about management and administration of a country (that's what the Civil and Public Service do, under political direction); it is about setting policy direction, based on political vision and values, and putting in place laws, policies, strategies and plans to achieve them. Politicians should be from the people and of the people; that means they should be farmers, dentists, plumbers, auctioneers, lawyers, academics, housewives, unemployed, journalists, economists, drunks, gays and - yes - teachers. In other words, they should be just like the rest of us. I don't want an elite running the country, I want politicians who come from the people and serve at their will. The last election, more than any in recent years, gave us such a group of men and women.

Ireland is at a crossroads now and the choices we make  - and not just the economic choices -  will determine how the country prospers over the next decade or more. These choices must be based on our values as a society of people - what we believe in; what we stand for; how we express and assert ourselves in the world; how we interact in international affairs; how we value and protect the weak and vulnerable in our society. It was our loss of direction, vision and values - driven largely by our brief love affair with money, shares and property (the "business" stuff) - that landed us where we are now. We don't need more "business" people, who so recently and so catastrophically failed our country - to run our affairs. I prefer the man or woman from my own community - not from a "business" elite - to do the job.

And how, exactly, do you really define a "business" person in Ireland? There is hardly a business that has not got a grant, a subsidy, a tax break or some other type of handout from the state - corporate welfare, as Joe Higgins might call it.

So get real, folks, and appreciate what our democracy is and just how fragile it can be. Fight to protect it whenever you hear calls for an elite to take over our affairs. For there lies the path to the destruction of our country and of our society and the end of a future for our children in the country of their birth.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

RTE's Ageist Coverage of 31st Dail is Shameful

I have followed the coverage of today's affairs in relation to the 31st Dail by RTE and I am utterly disgusted at the ageist theme running through all of it - from Morning Ireland to Pat Kenny and Drivetime. It is an utter disgrace and RTE should be ashamed of its editorial line. On Drivetime, a contributor to the programme said - with absolutely no evidence to back up the assertion - that the new Cabinet appeared "male and stale". Whatever about "male", how could she possibly call a Cabinet that has not even met "stale"? This is desperately poor production based on cliched thinking.

Having done such a great job on the coverage of the election counts, RTE have really let themselves down with their ageist coverage of today's events. Shame on them.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Cowen's Latest Act of Contempt for the Electorate

I am utterly disgusted at Brian Cowen's appointment of Darragh O'Brien to Seanad Eireann. Cowen, who did not have the nerve to present himself to the people for election and is Prime Minister merely by dint of a constitutional quirk, has the gall to appoint someone whom the electorate of Dublin North so recently rejected and who represents a party that failed the nation so badly and that was destroyed in the recent election. He has a cheek, but can I really be surprised at anything that party and its leaders would stoop to?

It is remarkable how quickly Cowen filled the Seanad vacancy in contrast to his leaving the Dail without three representatives for months. Democracy and the constitution counted for little then and it took Sinn Fein and the High Court to remind Cowen of his duty to the people. He has clearly forgotten it again.

Michael Martin has a long road ahead if he wants to renew Fianna Fail because sharp practice, abuse of position and contempt for the people is in the party's DNA.