Monday 27 January 2020

Editorial: We owe a great debt 
to brave Stephanie

Former Priory hall resident Stephanie Meehan
Former Priory hall resident Stephanie Meehan

The Priory Hall episode was probably one of the most shameful moments of the building boom.

That it took the courage of Stephanie Meehan to really highlight the issue following the tragic death of her partner and get joined-up thinking from the authorities on this scandal says a lot for 'people power.'

Yesterday's inquest into the death of her partner will help us recall her courage.

Urgent government action was needed for the residents of Priory Hall who unwittingly bought into this lethal apartment block.

That many of the residents of Priory Hall are now getting a fresh start in the property market is largely due to the actions of Ms Meehan, who became the spokesperson 
for more than 250 residents in the Dublin apartment complex.

The deal also secured the redevelopment of the Priory Hall complex by Dublin City Council.

All of this is largely due to the public stand taken by Ms Meehan and this cannot be forgotten.

Now is the right time for tax restructuring

The continuing fall in unemployment has to be a good news story for all.

The unemployment rate, according to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) yesterday, is now 11.5pc, a figure which brings Ireland more into line with our European partners. It is also the eighth quarter in a row that unemployment has declined, although an analysis of the figures does suggest that the rate of jobs growth is slowing.

More worrying, however, is the widening gap between Dublin and the regions - with the unemployment rate in Dublin at 10pc, while the south-east has an unemployment rate of 14.3pc.

This will hardly be a source of worry to the 31,600 people who have got jobs in the past year. The Jobs Minister Richard Bruton was suitably upbeat about the situation, saying that the Government is on target to deliver on its promise of 100,000 more jobs by 2016. But it is no time for complacency.

There is still an emigration crisis in Ireland, with an estimated 6,825 people leaving the country each month. Many of these are young and skilled, educated at enormous cost by the Irish taxpayer, but now seeking to bring their skills and enthusiasm to far-flung destinations.

As an island nation, we will always have people who seek faraway hills, but it must also be part of government policy to keep the young and well-educated in jobs at home as much as possible.

It is also worth noting that Goodbody Stockbrokers has introduced a note of good news into its quarterly report, published yesterday, saying that the Government can meet its budgetary deficit target next year without additional austerity measures. The report predicts that domestic demand will grow by 2.9pc and 3.1pc in the next two years.

Economist Jim O'Leary advocates widening the tax bands, reducing the higher rate of tax and a renewal of government expenditure on capital programmes, which in turn would boost employment. He contends that now is an opportune time to "restructure taxes and government spending to sustain the recovery." We can only say Amen to that.

Irish Independent

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