Saturday 22 October 2016

Sheltered professions have avoided long-overdue reform

Published 29/10/2015 | 02:30

Legal system seems dysfunctional
Legal system seems dysfunctional

Despite evidence that there has been significant economic progress, toys are still being thrown from the pram stemming from an understandable but irrational expectation that we should be getting to where we were in 2007, which was a La-La Land of living far beyond our means.

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Seemingly, 80pc of debate focuses on the bank guarantee, bondholders and the like, yet this addresses only 20pc of the problem, that being the share of the national debt arising net from bank bailouts. The debate needs to be refocussed.

Government spending excluding interest was €30bn in 2000 and had doubled to €60bn in 2014, while the Consumer Price Index has increased by 27pc in that time.

Pensions and social welfare payments were increased beyond inflation, and despite all the talk of inequality and hardship, it seems we are nearly at the top of the league compared with other countries in terms of tax and benefit progressivity and relative prosperity of retired people.

Public sector pay levels are still excessive compared with the private sector and peer countries. Average public sector pay is 46pc greater than the private sector, and still 20pc greater after adjusting for different characteristics. In peer countries the positions are reversed. Why?

Public sector numbers are still higher than in 2000, yet frontline staff such as doctors, nurses, teachers and guards seem continually stretched, with planning and regulation an oxymoron. For example, we are spending more on health as a percentage of GDP/GNP compared with the EU average.

Too many chiefs getting in the way of too few warriors?

The professions sheltered from the chill winds of international competition have not been reformed.

The legal system appears dysfunctional. Justice delayed and unaffordable is justice denied.

The auditing profession has questions to answer. What is the point in taking millions in audit fees if they cannot warn bank shareholders that their company may be insolvent?

Alan Hope, Castlebar, Co Mayo

Citizens must reclaim power

Seventy years ago this month, visionary survivors of two world wars turned to a new direction and the United Nations was born. For decades, countless millions have been fed, international laws have been better adhered to, violence has often been stopped and human rights have been advanced. But we still see refugees fleeing their homes, international cyber crime, intolerant religious extremism, drugs, weapons and people trafficked for profit and our environment being ruined. Why?

As Pope Francis stated: "There is an all-powerful elite that hoards wealth and resources. Certain countries have been able to manipulate the international body to mask spurious ends."

The United Nations needs renovation. Consider that initially the UN required that every 10 years a charter review conference be held to update the system as circumstances required, but the most powerful nations have never allowed even one review conference to happen.

Two changes could initially help our world tremendously:

1. The decisions of the UN must be made enforceable and applied with transparency, so perhaps it is time for the citizens of this world to have a say in their own global governance. Activists in the United Nations Parliamentary Association are fighting for this every day.

2. Imagine, a new global Marshall Plan to bring healing to the war-torn, the oppressed and the environment, all made possible through a new, cooperative UN system that finally has true enforcement power and perhaps independent funding. Isn't that a better application of our hard-earned money than the trillions we've spent on wars?

With so many crises looming, it's time to put away our endless fears and begin the most exciting, fulfilling project humankind has ever undertaken - citizens taking power back.

Debbie Metke, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Synod a disappointment

Your report on the synod mentions that divorced and remarried Catholics are now allowed to receive communion as a result of its deliberations (October 26). However, a closer examination of the final text of the assembled 270 bishops reveals that they failed to achieve any significant progress on the outstanding issues confronting families in the Catholic Church.

On the issue of allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion, the drafting group of that section of the report managed, through the use of enough ambiguous language, to scrape the necessary two-thirds majority needed for its inclusion in the final report.

The issue of gay marriage was a non-starter, while the insulting language describing gay and lesbian people as having a disordered condition remains official church language

The possibility of women being accepted as full members of the Church with equal access to all leadership roles and ministries was also a non-starter.

Pope Francis must be especially disappointed that the assembled bishops could not accept minimum pastoral changes such as the German bishops' proposal for communion for the divorced and remarried .

However ,the synod's report is an advisory document which he can accept, reject or modify; what he does or does not with these recommendations will define his pontificate.

Brendan Butler, Malahide, Co Dublin

Racism is reprehensible

Patrick Rudden asks if Travellers are really of a different race than other Irish people, if they are born in Ireland to Irish parents.

Apart from suggesting he read Seán Moncrieff's piece (October 24), perhaps he should consider if blacks in the United States are often treated in a racist manner, even though most black people are of families many generations longer-established in that country than white people.

Racism is a function of ethnicity, culture and attitudes, not simply skin colour or country of origin. When one culture diminishes another, that is racism. Perhaps we need a better word to distinguish between racism based on skin colour and racism based on ethnicity, but both are equally reprehensible.

Phil Miesle, Roslevan, Ennis, Co Clare

Irish Independent

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