Fairer social welfare system needed for drivers of the economy
Reading your piece regarding the health effects of the downturn (Irish Independent, August 9), it comes as no surprise to me that rates of stroke and heart attack increased dramatically after the financial crash.
The humiliation and depression some feel, when all that they worked so hard to build disappears, puts huge pressure on individuals and indeed their friends and families.
This effect is not confined to just one single event but for many, particularly the self-employed, it's a constant worry which weighs heavy as they try to balance the books, knowing should they fail, the social welfare safety net is not there to help, resulting in financial devastation for them and their families.
With the Budget just around the corner, many voices will want to be heard. But surely, having been neglected for so long by successive governments, the self-employed deserve a break. Those who risk everything to start businesses are the real drivers of the economy, increasing our tax take and generating employment. It is also an established fact that many young entrepreneurs fail many times before eventually succeeding, so knowing that the financial safety net is in place would surely encourage them to continue during difficult times.
It's also a sad fact that should an established company get into difficulty and close, all employees are entitled to social welfare payments but unfortunately the owner, who has contributed so much, worked hard and paid his/her taxes, is entitled to nothing. A fairer social welfare system is a must and benefits all.
For the self-employed, Taoiseach, getting up early in the morning is mandatory but, as things stand, getting sleep at night is a luxury most of us can't afford!
Bishop Birch Place, Kilkenny
Hypocrisy of the unchallenged
Newspapers, radio and TV programmes, and internet forums are full of complaints about the problems in the health service and shortage of housing.
This raises questions about the lack of any challenge to the decisions made by powerful people at the head of government, financial institutions, etc, when the present-day problems were created.
Those who were in powerful positions in charge of our most powerful institutions during the pre-2009 period, when the decisions were taken that bankrupted the country, were unchallenged then.
They are just as unchallenged today when they are complaining about the consequences in the health service, housing, etc, of their own decisions.
Why do we have to put up with this hypocrisy?
Sutton, Dublin 13
Learn from history on planning
In 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, demolished cities created a disastrous crisis of historic proportions.
In Italy, hundreds of houses and apartments were reduced to ruins. In Britain, 202,000 houses were destroyed and the V weapons rendered a further 255,000 uninhabitable. France had suffered even more, 460,000 buildings gone and a further 1.9 million damaged.
Germany, meanwhile, lost 3.6 million apartments or one fifth of all dwellings. In the Soviet Union, many of the major cities had been laid to waste as well as 1,700 smaller towns and 70,000 villages - and so it went on. Poland and the rest of Europe through which the war passed, sometimes twice, as in the case of the Baltic states by the Germans 'on the way out' and later by the Soviets 'on the way back'. In Asia, the position was just as bad. There were nine million homeless in Japan.
The 25 years after 1945 saw the most radical rebuilding in the history of the world's cities. But before this new world began to rise from the ashes of the old, there was a great deal of debate.
The one thing that almost everyone agreed on was it should not be left to the 'free market'. Private landlords and developers had no incentive to create spacious, healthy environments for their tenants or purchasers, quite the opposite. In fact, in order to maximise their profits they were motivated to crowd as many bodies as possible into their properties and to build on every inch of the green space available.
According to architects like Le Corbusier, one of the most influential planners of the era, governments that allowed the free market to act unchecked were effectively failing the people who had elected them. "A butcher would be condemned for the sale of rotten meat but the building codes would allow buildings (and so they did in our little country) to be forced on the poor for the enrichment of a few selfish people," he said.
Even in the USA, which had not been devastated, the Regional Planning Association of America had also championed greater involvement by the state in planning.
One of the leading lights in the US, architecture critic Lewis Munford, stated "that the proper planning and building of towns and cities was the most pressing task of civilisation: the issues of socialisation or disorganisation, culture or barbarism, rest in good parts on our success in handling this problem".
In 70 years, despite the introduction of computers, the saturation of our graduates by further qualifications, and an expanded public service, we have obviously continued to disregard history and to continue unsuccessfully to reinvent the wheel.
Cleggan, Co Galway
God's agents hiding behind law
As you report (Irish Independent, August 10), blasphemy offences are prosecuted under the 2009 Defamation Act.
However, to obtain a conviction for defamation it is not enough merely to prove that what is said is not true, but also that harm is done to the one who is defamed. But God, being all powerful, cannot be harmed. So, is the State protecting God, or is it protecting those in our society who profess to be God's agents on Earth?
If the latter, why are they happy to hide behind the considerable might of the law rather than engage in dialogue with the so-called perpetrators.
I have no doubt that Stephen Fry would be delighted to engage in lively discourse with the champions of the Church.
Castletownbere, Co Cork
Plucking at feathers
Brendan Keenan's column (Irish Independent, Business, August 10) stated that the Italian politician Cavour is credited with the observation that the art of taxation is to pluck the maximum amount of feathers with the minimum of amount of hissing.
In fact, it was the 17th century French politician Jean-Baptiste Colbert who said that the art of taxation is "plucking the goose as to procure the largest quantity of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing".
Raheny, Dublin 5