Tuesday 27 September 2016

Planning for the end 
of the 'Emergency'

Published 09/08/2014 | 02:30

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expediture and Reform, is to enter talks with trades unions
Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expediture and Reform, is to enter talks with trades unions

WHEN will the 'Emergency' be over? 'The Emergency' was, of course, the euphemistic term for the status of the country during World War II.

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Notably, the then government didn't declare 'The Emergency' was over until 1946. The modern day 'Emergency' is the economic crisis, which engulfed the country from 2008 onwards and resulted in a series of Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (FEMPI) bills. Mainly, the legislation cut the pay and pensions of public sector workers.

Eventually, the 'Emergency' will have to be declared to be over. The bailout has ended, the Troika have departed, economic growth is rising, unemployment is dropping - albeit never at a fast enough rate.

The country won't go back to the largesse of the Celtic Tiger era, but a sustainable economic model is the goal. Therefore, 'Emergency' measures come up for discussion.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has signalled his intention to enter talks with public sector trade unions next year to discuss what measures will be retained and reversed.

Throughout the crisis, workers in all sectors bore the brunt of direct and indirect tax hikes.

Frontline public service workers, often not on extravagant salaries, were also hit by wage reductions and the pension levy under FEMPI. The talks are likely to result in the reversal of some of the pay cuts. Given the actuarial value of public sector pensions, there will be a debate around workers in the public sector continuing to make a larger contribution towards their pension.

In another context, Supreme Court Judge Adrian Hardiman summed up the difficulty of temporary measures becoming permanent: "The cry of emergency is 'an intoxicating one, producing an exhilarating freedom from the need to consider the rights of others and productive of a desire to repeat it again and again."

Mr Howlin's acknowledgement the 'Emergency' is coming to an end is a positive development.


We must be careful not to deny suicide crisis

PLANS by Tanaiste Joan Burton to introduce death certificates which omit the cause of death in the event of a suicide are proving to be divisive. Ms Burton will introduce new regulations to allow a "short form" death certificate to be used.

The short form certificate will not include how the person lost their life. The inclusion of the cause of death is highly distressing for families whose loved ones die by suicide.

And those families deserve to have their grief lessened in every way possible.

But Ms Burton's plans have raised concern in some quarters about introducing a layer of censorship to an area - mental health - that has already been brushed under the societal carpet for years.

At its peak, deaths by suicide surpassed road deaths and the issue is, therefore, a major public health issue.

Other than the distress caused to families, the necessity of formally recognising the cause of death has legal implications for the settlement of estates and for companies who provide life insurance policies.

It seems incredibly outdated, but for various life insurance packages, some companies include suicide as a reason not to pay out on the policy.

The Government must, therefore, tread a careful line between protecting families and standing accused of attempting to hide the scourge of suicide.

More, not less, transparency has helped reduce suicides, particularly in areas where there have been clusters.

Plans for the new regulations are at an advanced stage.

Ms Burton should perhaps allow for more public consultation before the laws are passed.

Irish Independent

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