Monday 24 October 2016

Letters: An omission of facts in blind defence of austerity policies

Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30

Philippe Legrain: former adviser to Jose Manuel Barroso
Philippe Legrain: former adviser to Jose Manuel Barroso

In his blind defence of the austerity policies of the Government, Anthony Leavy (Letters, May 22) ignores some glaring facts.

  • Go To

His somewhat worrying claim that those who oppose such austerity measures blame "foreigners" for bankrupting the country is completely absurd. Without doubt, the policies pursued by the Government and supported by the Opposition during the boom played a major part in our economic implosion.

However, as has been acknowledged by Phillipe Legrain, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's former adviser, the treatment of Ireland by the EU was "outrageous" and amounted to "bullying".

The Irish people have been saddled with billions of euro of debt as a result. This does not amount to "blaming foreigners" as Mr Leavy puts it, it is just a fact.

It is also absurd to claim that those who oppose the austerity policies believe that "shaking down" the super-rich and multi-nationals will fix everything. As has been well reported, the effective tax paid by some large multinational corporations is laughable.

Our tax rate has been the subject of justifiable criticism in both the US and UK government circles. An increase in that tax rate to a fair level will not solve all our problems, but it would mitigate to some degree the burden being borne by the Irish people. This does not amount to a "shakedown" by any means.

Likewise, we saw recently that the richest 300 people in the country increased their wealth by €6.7bn this year, at a time of increasing homelessness and desperation.

Despite Mr Leavy's contention, nobody is suggesting that taxing these people to a greater degree would solve all our problems, but it would go someway toward making our society even slightly fairer.



Ireland's Great War dead

In my article in last Saturday's supplement on Ireland and the Great War, the number of the Irish war dead was, by mistake, changed from the original and correct figure that I gave of 30,000 to that of 49,000.

However, the mistake arose from a genuine misunderstanding, which merits clarification. The higher figure of 49,435 war dead was long accepted because it is the one inscribed on the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge.

It was derived from the list of the individual war dead compiled by the war memorial committee after the war, and which is contained in Ireland's Memorial Records. These have been digitised by Eneclann and can now be consulted online.

The committee's definition of what it was to be Irish included Irishmen who were born or lived abroad, many of whom did not fight in Irish regiments. It also included some who, while not Irish, did serve with Irish units. The higher figure thus reflects the importance of Irish emigration, especially to Britain, and also the mingling of Irishmen with others in a multi-national British imperial army.

Research by historians puts the figure of the Irish dead who were born in Ireland in the region of 30,000 to 35,000. This is corroborated by the 31,000 entries in Ireland's Memorial Records that give Ireland as the place of birth.

Since around 145,000 Irishmen volunteered directly from the 32 counties, and over 60,000 more were long-term volunteer professional soldiers in the army (or reservists) before 1914, this means that the military contribution of the island of Ireland was 200,000 to 210,000 men, with a death rate of 15 to 16pc.



Shatter donated my money

So, according to Enda, nobody could object to Alan Shatter giving his severance package of €70,000 to the Jack and Jill Foundation – well I do.

True, the foundation does wonderful work for sick children. I have given donations to them in the past as have many others. Maybe not €70,000 but what we gave was our money!

What Shatter gave was taxpayers' money. His "entitlement" to it rested on a technicality. The abolition of severance packages had been passed by the Oireachtas but had not been signed into law because, according to Leo Varadkar, nobody thought that any minister was going to resign so there was no rush to sign.

Why didn't Shatter give €70,000 of his own money to the foundation? Incidentally it is claimed that this "donation" is worth €50,000 to the charity. Does this mean that the State takes 41pc in tax?



Minister revealed his arrogance

Alan Shatter did not donate €70,000 to the Jack and Jill foundation. In truth, this was a transfer of taxpayers' funds to this very worthy organisation, made thanks to a technicality on behalf of Mr Shatter. His action masks the fact that ex-minister Shatter, professing that this type of payment to ex-ministers should not occur, used his entitlement to claim ownership and do with it, in his usually arrogant manner, as he decided fit.

By choosing the Jack and Jill Foundation he did highlight the funding problems that this organisation is experiencing. It would have been far better if, when he was a minister, he and his colleagues used their influence to ensure that the most vulnerable of our society did not bear the brunt of austerity.

Typically, he chose to issue a pre-announced press statement on the steps of the Dail which one can only assume he thought was self-serving but, in fact, to use an expression coined by ex-commissioner Callinan, was simply "disgusting".



Taxpayers bear the cost

We the taxpayers are now making a donation to the Jack and Jill Foundation via Alan Shatter.



Rein in anti-democratic power

Defenders of "austerity" fail to explain why increased taxes and charges go hand-in-hand with the downgrading and decimation of health and education services – surely the opposite should be the case?

The traditional model of wealth distribution through taxation to fund public services and welfare, creating the political and economic stability we have known since World War II, is no more. Our hard-earned cash, in the guise of water charges, property tax, USC etc, is now channelled directly into the coffers of the banks and multinational corporations that caused the catastrophic financial crash in the first place.

Financial deregulation has allowed private global finance to insidiously commandeer politics and public life in a way that is unique in our lifetime. The first item on the agenda for our newly elected politicians has to be the reining in of the anti-democratic power of the banks and corporations.



No wise men here, just wafflers

So, the people have spoken, but will the politicians listen? The late Jimi Hendrix said, "knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens". We have heard much speaking (mostly waffle) recently, but precious little wisdom.

It will probably be next Christmas before we hear 'Wise Men' mentioned.



Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Don't Miss

Editor's Choice