Saturday 22 October 2016

Taxes taking too heavy a toll on those who earn the least

Published 04/10/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Coalition needs to look at inequality across all of our society
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Coalition needs to look at inequality across all of our society

Where I once saw lampposts covered with Fine Gael posters calling for "Equality" in the recent same-sex marriage referendum campaign, I now see Fine Gael posters in Rathmines, Dublin, calling for "Lower taxes and more responsible public spending".

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On the responsible public spending issue, one could either laugh or cry when the glaring waste of vast amounts of public monies in Irish Water springs to mind.

All of this was planned and "actioned" by none other than Fine Gael, along with the support of Labour deputies in the Oireachtas.

Taxes are the down-payment for services provided in a society. What has happened in last year's budget was what I believe to be a deliberate reconfiguration of the tax base through cutting income taxes.

These income tax cuts have been paid for by expanding indirect taxes, which impact more on people with middle and lower incomes, and in cutting subsidies - for example, to public transport - resulting in a 50pc increase in fares over five years.

This hike in fares in the already lowest-subvented public transport system in the EU, is again paid for, in the main, by the middle and lower income sections of the population.

A slew of other charges and the cutting of an array of essential services have been the other mechanism to pay for income tax cuts, while the ravenous ghost of the ongoing bank bailout repayments hovers (thankfully for the Government) just out of view.

The costs in human suffering of expanding inequality are irrefutable as is the reality that more equal (but not level) societies, such as the Nordic countries, function better for their citizens.

I fear the hunger of Government for "Equality" in the spring of this year has disappeared, like the thousands of posters which adorned those lampposts.

John Sullivan, Dublin 6

Lessons for our classrooms

Ivan Yates writes with studied alarmism about what he sees as the problems in Irish education (Irish Independent, October 1). It is regrettable, if unsurprising, that he uses his article to provide a platform from which to attack educationalists.

One real crisis in our education system which he fails to mention relates to its hugely 'casualised' workforce, with one third of TUI members at second level (and up to half of those under 35) in temporary/part-time employment, with many experiencing income poverty as a result. To compound this inequality, new entrants to the profession since 2011 have been placed on discriminatory, differentiated pay scales. All of this is happening while teachers are working in schools still reeling from the effects of austerity cutbacks, including cuts to guidance counselling and pastoral supports for students.

While Mr Yates is correct to point out the problem of chronic underfunding at third level, he neglects to mention that the weekly lecturing hours in Institutes of Technology have increased since the recession, despite having already been significantly above international norms. This is unfair and unsustainable and is damaging to both lecturers and students.

It is very interesting that Mr Yates should reference Tony Blair's educational "reform" from 1996 in seeking to promote change here in Ireland. Tellingly, the most recent international OECD PISA findings (2012) show that Irish students outperformed their peers in the United Kingdom in Mathematics, Reading and Science.

Mr Yates' polemic seeks to marginalise the voices of teachers and lecturers.

This is a recipe for educational disimprovement, not reform. True reform involves real engagement with our profession and respect for our conditions of work.

Gerry Quinn, President, Teachers' Union of Ireland, Dublin 6

Walking the line

I read that train passengers in Bristol had halted their train by pulling emergency cords because they had found out it was not due to stop at their station. They disembarked and made their way on foot back to their station.

I can only conclude that, like Johnny Cash, they decided to "walk the line".

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9

Punishment fitting the crime

Congratulations and heartfelt thanks to Judge Thomas Teehan, who broke with what appears to be the norm in this country and handed down sentences of between 12 and 20 years to a ruthless gang of thugs that terrorised a Co Tipperary couple and their children during a break-in.

The details of the savagery they suffered are hard to take in - it just baffles ordinary people to think this thuggery can go on and on, and the perpetrators are given sentences like four or five years, with two or three of them suspended, due in part to the defendants coming from broken homes.

Mike Burke, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare

Come rain or shine

I wanted to write something to celebrate this wonderful, surprising spell of weather at the moment, so I came across the following:

Whether the weather be fine

Or whether the weather be not,

Whether the weather be cold

Or whether the weather be hot,

We'll weather the weather

Whatever the weather

Whether we like it or not.

Brian Mc Devitt, Glenties, Co Donegal

Putin's target in Syria

Unsurprisingly, Russia's current bombing campaign in Syria is proving controversial.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says they are carrying out air strikes against Isil and other "gangs of terrorists". Who these other gangs of terrorists are, he has not told us.

What we do know is that Putin has fully supported the Assad regime (including by supplying arms to it) from the outset of the conflict.

Bashar al-Assad uses the word "terrorist" to describe all those who have taken up arms against the oppressive regime.

That places all anti-Assad factions (whether having a justifiable cause or not) as potential targets of Russian attacks.

The recent air strikes carried out by the US and UK had no such ambiguity; their actions were solely to counteract the advance of Isil.

John Bellew, Dunlee, Co Louth

Irish Independent

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