Friday 24 October 2014

Editorial: The Troika must cut us some slack on austerity

Published 19/06/2014 | 02:30

Joan Burton. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne
Joan Burton. Photo: Clodagh Kilcoyne

As she seeks to lead a party reeling from the ravages of the part it played in the current deeply unpopular austerity Government, could Joan Burton, the Minister for Social Protection, be happy with the assessment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that she will "remain in the Coalition and maintain the fiscal targets for 2015" should she win? While there is little doubt that the new leader would keep Labour in government, it is unlikely that such a leader will want to continue with the austerity regime which has ceded large sections of its support to Sinn Fein and Independents.

What Ms Burton must be hoping for is some renegotiation of the Programme for Government that will help build on the fragile return of consumer confidence and put more money in the pockets of working people. However, the mandarins of the Troika are insistent that austerity should continue for another year and a further €2bn in government taxes and spending measures must be adhered to in Budget 2015 next October. This will bring the Irish deficit to the required equivalent of 4.8pc of gross domestic product (GDP). While recognising that it was these three organisations which came to the aid of Ireland when nobody else would lend us money, it must also be pointed out that they are receiving interest payments of €1.5bn a year for their 'generosity'. These latest pronouncements, backed up by our own Fiscal Advisory Council, may make sense on paper, but politically and socially they are unpopular and are undoubtedly causing deep trauma to the social fabric of this country.

As such there should be a review of the targets contained in the programme. The Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, who has remained popular while implementing the austerity programme, has recognised this and knows that taxpayers need something of a tonic if they are not to lose all hope from 'austerity fatigue'.

The IMF official Craig Beaumont said yesterday: "It's our job to give advice." But it is equally true that the Irish Government's job is to listen to advice but make its own decisions. There is no arguing that we got ourselves into this mess, but it is equally true that the vast majority have struggled manfully to get us out of it. What we need now is some sort of middle ground which will not lose sight of the European Commission spending targets, but will do something to ameliorate them so that the Irish people can look forward to 2015 and 2016 with hope for a sustainable future.

All credit to McIlroy for commendable loyalty

SO let us now welcome Rory McIlroy as an Irish Olympian and representative for the team preparing for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. The national tug-of-war between Ireland and Great Britain over which country he would represent has been unseemly at best and an embarrassing distraction for the golfer himself.

While citizenship is a matter for him to choose as he sees fit, there is no doubt that Rory McIlroy is an 'Irishman' in the broadest sense of the term. In his voice, his demeanour and the love of the sport, McIlroy demonstrates where he comes from and it is to be hoped that he chose to honour that Irishness without political pressures from either side of what is known as 'the divide' in Northern Ireland, where he was born.

In making the decision he has also shown a commendable loyalty to those who believed in him before he was an international golfing superstar. "I played my junior and boys golf for Ireland. I played my amateur golf for Ireland. Just because I'm getting paid to play this great game now doesn't mean I should change that," he said, announcing his decision.

McIlroy has already played for Ireland in golf's World Cup in 2009 and 2011, so his decision is only natural.

Rory McIlroy is to be applauded for showing such loyalty to those who supported him when he needed it and all Irish people, regardless of borders or religious or political beliefs, should applaud his decision.

Irish Independent

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