Tuesday 27 September 2016

How can we just ‘move on’ with so many left so far behind?

Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30

No longer seeking debt relief: Michael Noonan. Photo: Tony Gavin
No longer seeking debt relief: Michael Noonan. Photo: Tony Gavin

So now it’s official. Michael Noonan, the Finance Minister, last week stated that the €64bn bank recapitalisation, or debt relief, was not being pursued by the Government. Inexplicably, he further stated that he was against debt relief for any country, including Ireland.

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He seemed quite proud that we had received some relief by way of extended maturity dates and lower interest charges; those interest payments are now down to a mere €7bn a year, and our overall debt is now less that 100pc of GDP – something of the order of €150bn.

Finally, he said “the issues have moved on”, as things are now much better than they were in 2010. Mr Noonan’s latest admission of utter defeat and deference to our EU masters went totally unnoticed by the media, with not a peep or a hint of outrage in print or on TV.

Everybody has long agreed that the capitalisation of our private banks to cover their unprecedented, irresponsible gambling losses was forced on the Irish people by the ECB to protect and rescue the euro, the EU itself, and of course the entire European banking system.

Remember, we paid bondholders in full, even unsecured bond holders, even though many bonds were purchased at well below par. To put the outrage in context, it was as if someone, for some bizarre reason, was forced to pay their neighbour’s huge mortgage and then felt extremely grateful and less aggrieved when granted an extended maturity and reduced interest rate on that mortgage.

This whole saga was a cruel, unjust and unprecedented political and economic crime; the bully-boy tactics adopted by our EU partners were accepted shamefully and meekly by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who were both complicit, despite some pathetic initial protestations.

One wonders does Mr Noonan expect those Irish people directly affected to this day by the grotesque imposition of such monumental debts to turn the other cheek and move on. For instance, does he suggest the grieving families of the thousands who lost loved ones to suicide to forget the injustices and just move on?

Does he expect the thousands stranded on hospital trolleys to just fester in silence and move on? Does he expect the homeless, the sick, the elderly, the mentally ill and those crippled by mortgage debt and facing eviction, to move on? As a nation, we have been struck by that fatal Irish disease, that of learned helplessness.

John Leahy



Protecting the family farm

Inefficiency of scale in the farming sector is being ignored to the determent of farming. By its nature, farming is a high-cost, low-margin business.

Scale doesn’t work in farming because of the high costs of the man hours it takes to manage animal health and milk quality in such a scenario. One person can manage around 80 to 100 cows and this is very much dependent on the farmer’s age, and he must put in, on average, 60 to 80 hours a week to cope with such numbers and the work involved.

Scaling up such an enterprise to 800 cows would become uneconomic because of the labour costs. An employee will work only 40 hours; combine that with the high cost of borrowings.

Farming organisations took their eye off the ball by accepting scaling up as a way to increase farmers’ incomes, when clearly it is not.

More damage has been done in co-ops by selling a majority shareholding to PLCs when investors have the majority vote and they can take profit from such a system and leave the person milking the cows on the ground with losses. This theory is now well proven by PLCs lagging down the milk price league table. The time has come to stop pushing scale as the answer, when clearly it is the family farm that is more efficient.

We should be protecting the family farm model as the way forward for farming.

Michael Flynn

Carrick-on-Suir, Co Waterford


Give the unemployed a ‘start’

The ‘recovery’ will mean nothing if something isn’t done now to provide decent jobs to the 143,000 people who are still enduring long-term unemployment.

There are many highly skilled and experienced people among those 143,000, including myself. To say we need ‘upskilling’ is to insult us. All we need is a ‘start’, in the good old-fashioned sense of that word. The only real way a person can gain experience and develop skills these days is by doing a full-time job.

There is no other effective way of developing a pool of talent and experience for the present and future needs of our economy. It won’t be enough to rely on returning ex-pats, or immigrant workers. Let’s face it, all new employees need training, regardless of their background, so why not give a decent paying job to some of the local unemployed and train them along the way?

All that is required is for indigenous and multinational businesses to show some goodwill and some public spirit and give a few of the long-term unemployed in their local area a start. Surely, it is not beyond the capabilities of Irish-based businesses, both indigenous and multinational, to take on a few local people who have been unemployed for so long and give them a job for at least 18 months? Maybe it’s time for the Government to make it compulsory for businesses to take on local, skilled, unemployed people in return for the huge grants, low corporation tax and all the other benefits they get from the Irish taxpayer? Leo Varadkar and John Halligan need to show some real leadership on this issue and they need to show it now, immediately, not in September.

Tim Buckley

Cork city


Kelly stays around for the party

Fair play to Alan Kelly for stating that he is “going nowhere”. Pity it took him so long to realise it.

Gerry O’Donnell

Dublin 15


Hurling at its finest

The start of the hurling championship is a time of conflicting emotions. There will be bouts of irrationality, and, win or lose, you know your heart will weaken.

Still, there’s always hope, and if these players have given it their all, then you must be there to will them on. It’s only sport, it’s just a game, but at its finest (and your most fanciful) you imagine this game is played with the spirit, skill and sometime splendour of the Fianna.

At its heart, hurling has an honesty that somehow speaks to where you come from.

So you’re going in for the kill. Specifically, Kilkenny. Though there’s the cut of the comeback kid to Clare and a dark-horse defiance to the Déise that makes you sleepless. Still, Tipp have started well, with our win over Cork.

One thing is for certain; when the course of a game can change as swiftly as the motion which drives it, the summer could hold anything.

Cate MacGabhann

Clonmel, Tipperary

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