Letters: Let's see what MEPs are really fighting for
Published 20/05/2014 | 02:30
In the last few days before the European elections, it is worth pointing out what exactly it is the candidates are fighting for.
Certainly, some of them will claim they want to represent the Irish people, when the reality is most of them have signed a legally binding contract with their respective parties to abide by the party whip system.
But I suspect that every MEP who gets elected will make sure they claim every single cent from the expenses and allowance system. The basic gross monthly salary of an MEP is €8,020.53, up from €7,956.53 in 2012. It 'can' be subject to Irish tax, but most Irish MEPs prefer to avail of the far lower special EU tax rate, which results in a net payment of €6,250.37. Only Nessa Childers publishes her net monthly salary, although she doesn't publish an actual tax certificate, which she states is €4,716.90 for 2013 and which is in line with what an Irish person earning the same salary, paying full PAYE and other taxes, would take home. But not one of the other Irish MEPs provides details on their net salaries.
Then there are the expenses.
MEPs are refunded the cost of travel upon provision of a receipt, but are also entitled to a fixed allowance based on the distance and duration of the journey to cover the cost of travelling. Added to this is the tax-free €4,243 for 'travel' to meetings within member states.
There is also the tax-free €304 per day to cover the cost of each day's accommodation and lunch, which is €152 a day when outside the EU, with travel and hotel costs paid for directly. Let's not forget the final salary pension.
Every Irish MEP should be required to publish their tax certificate, their salary slip, details of the ownership of the property they live in in Brussels and of their constituency office, also the receipts for expenses claimed, plus tax certificates for every person they employ, and their diaries to show who they have been lobbied by and who they lobby on behalf of.
They should also publish audited accounts of how they funded their campaigns and where they spent the money.
CANARY WHARF, LONDON
CHANGING THE CHURCH
The ill-founded suggestion that Pope Francis is more interested in public relations than in public apologies for the sins of the church is steadily gaining ground, ignoring the extent to which the new Pope has already refocused and redirected the organisation of the Catholic Church, preventing it from sinking into an abyss of scandal and incompetence through the dodgy behaviour of senior Vatican officials.
Recently, 'The Economist' ran a rather original analysis of the Pope as a trouble-shooting CEO sent in to turn around a failing organisation that was haemorrhaging customers, and with a demoralised sales force.
Like all good managers, Pope Francis has focused on one clear mission. He has made helping the poor and the marginalised the key focus of the church. This is intended to shift the emphasis of the church's life away from the preoccupation with precise orthodoxy.
The Pope seems well aware of the danger of attempting to change the direction of an organisation overnight. What he seeks to do is to direct our commitment to a way of life that is humane, forgiving and attentive to the needs of those who are not well served by the way the world works. Questions about contraception and homosexual relations are peripheral to the church's core purpose.
What is crucial in any organisation lies in knowing clearly what we are for and showing it. If the main focus of the church's efforts is concern for the poor, it is reasonable to expect that this concern shows itself in all that it says and does, particularly in the context of the mindless drive for the accumulation of wealth where poverty is seen by the rich as inevitable and justifiable collateral damage.
The intelligent innovator seeks to find where desired changes already show themselves and breathes life into them. An innovating organisation begins with a change of heart, moves to a change of mind and then to a change of practice.
I am convinced we have the change of heart, representing the beginnings of a conversion to a more earth-bound church, meeting the demand for consistency between what we know about the world and what we do about it.
EDITH ROAD, OXFORD
THE BELIEFS OF ATHEISTS
In light of the ongoing debate on God in your letters page, it might be worthwhile considering a short selection of the extraordinary beliefs of atheists themselves.
In order to be an atheist, you need to believe that the universe popped uncaused into existence from literally nothing; that the extreme initial order of the universe happened by accident; that the fine-tuning of the expansion of the universe happened by accident; that the fine-tuning of the solar system and the earth's place within it (including all of the necessities of life) happened by accident; that life originated from inanimate matter by accident very shortly after the formation of the earth; that a multilayered system of encoding information (that includes redundant and error-correction mechanisms) evolved via random shuffling of chemicals very shortly thereafter; that there was enough time for the slow evolutionary process to sort through the mind-bogglingly large space of possibilities of protein structures; that evolution was able to drive the development of each species along parallel male and female paths at the same time; that human language was able to rapidly diverge into hundreds of completely distinct languages despite a very low population; that the scientific method can ultimately explain everything in the universe, even though the truth of this statement cannot be proven via the scientific method; that personalities, feelings, etc, are all derived from the movement or interactions of chemicals in the brain; that there ultimately is no such thing as free will; that morality is subjective and that if the majority felt that, say, murder was okay, then it would be okay; that Jesus Christ never existed, or if he did, he was a madman, and that his followers were all happily martyred based on mass hallucinations.
Whose beliefs rely on blind faith exactly?
CASTLEKNOCK, DUBLIN 15
WHAT NEXT, LE DONALD TRUMP?
I wish to protest at the decision to name our new naval vessels after Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. The inappropriateness of this decision is well illustrated by the fact that both of these gentlemen felt it desirable to leave these shores as quickly as they possibly could, and indeed James Joyce opted to carry a British rather than an Irish passport.
The fine tradition of naming our Navy's ships after Celtic mythological figures was Irish, much loved, and served well over some 17 vessels.
The suggestion that the new names will increase recognition of the Navy overseas is faintly ludicrous.
The best way to increase overseas recognition is to play our part, alongside the 14 other EU maritime nations, in countering the scourge of maritime piracy offs Somalia and west Africa.
Of course, the worst part of this mistake is now that the tradition has been broken, the naming of future ships is at the mercy of whatever whim catches the fancy of the time.
Considering what took place at Shannon Airport the other day, why not LE Donald Trump? Better still, we could sell the naming rights. LE Aviva has a nice ring to it!
CUIL GHLAS, DUNBOYNE, CO MEATH