Monday 16 September 2019

Cut number of TDs to 100 and save €15m a year

* 'Quality in preference to quantity' and 'evidence of value for money' must be the two 'vitals' for a reformed new government.

The entire Oireachtas are well aware they are top-heavy in numbers and costing the taxpayers a 'bomb'. Any economies made would be a far more commendable national effort than pressuring requests to cut the dole, medical card services or child benefit – a scandalous intrusion on the needy.

We need an effective, compact and affordable government. Nothing so simple as dropping a suggested eight TDs; only a real, serious refurbishment will justify the cost of a referendum.

For a start, based on international standards, less than 60 TDs are necessary in Ireland. Amending the Constitution to provide one representative for every 30,000 to 40,000 of population from the current 20,000 to 30,000 people could reduce the number of deputies from 164 to an even 100.

This initial move towards reform would cut government expenditure in salaries and expenses alone by about €15m annually.

Rather than get rid of it and despite the fact the Seanad may be a remnant of the old ascendancy House of Lords, it carries a type of prestige that has powerful marketing value in selling the country abroad.

Having said that, its composition and exercise of powers needs complete reform. The number of senators should be reduced to 50, with at least one senator for each county. Those should be people of standing from all walks of life (not based on politics) and directly elected by the people.

Enterprise and employment should be their main portfolio. The Seanad would also play an important role in keeping the main parties from having a field day. The reduction in numbers would save the country another €2m to €3m.

This is something for politicians to consider during their summer recess.

James Gleeson

Thurles, Co Tipperary

FOCUS ON JOBS, JOBS, JOBS

* Europe is asking Ireland to make a budget adjustment this year of €3.1bn.

The country has worked tirelessly since 2008 to try and get itself back into the markets and has made every sacrifice possible. More reductions in this year's Budget are just not feasible. But there is an easier way to achieve this €3.1bn adjustment.

We are a relatively small country, so the European Union could easily afford to set Ireland up before it exits the bailout by transferring its bank debts to the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and concentrating on employment growth as opposed to austerity.

While Europe keeps promising a decision on this, it really just wants this country to exit the bailout programme and halt the bad press being aimed at Brussels.

Ireland can go back to the markets at the end of this year but will be so laden down by debt that it will take decades for it to recover.

However, if it positions itself as the 'big break' Europe needs to get itself out of recession, then a small extra effort made by the EU before year-end could mean that Ireland doesn't just exit the bailout but, instead, turns into a growing economy.

Imagine, if by Christmas, we were able to report that after leaving the arms of the troika, we had moved from junk status back to 'AAA' status, reduced our unemployment from 13pc to 9pc and had become a fast-growing economy – this would be seen as the euro's first success story and could trigger growth across the entire region.

This could come about if we moved our bank debts across to the ESM and focused hard on job creation.

The majority of the unemployed are from the construction sector, so by investing in capital-building programmes we would automatically bring the rate below the psychological 10pc threshold – which would then reduce the social welfare burden and raise the amount of PAYE tax collected – thus bringing us closer to the €3.1bn adjustment.

Paul Montwill

CEO, Magico, Ennis, Co Clare

A CREDIT TO THE COUNTRY

* I would like to raise a number of points in relation to an article by Brendan Keenan ('Politicians treat us like idiots when it comes to bank crisis', Irish Independent, July 25).

While many valid points are made in relation to the instability of the banking sector and the political considerations around this issue, I must take issue with a statement made in the article that credit unions are a threat to the financial stability of individuals.

This is simply untrue, and if you listened to the voices of the hundreds of members and thousands of families who have depended on them for small affordable loans in the wake of our economic crisis, you would hear a very different story.

As your writer correctly points out, "credit unions have been an invaluable source of credit to individuals".

Unlike the banks, they were not the cause of the economic collapse nor have they to date needed a taxpayer 'bailout'.

In fact, they have, over the past five years, been the only financial services providers that have been lending modest sums of money to people who are seriously struggling to deal with the impact of years of austerity.

Yes, credit unions have been impacted by the financial crisis but this impact has been felt across the financial services sector; to suggest otherwise is plainly wrong.

Credit union membership across the island of Ireland has grown by 120,000 in the past three years, an indication of the trust people have in their local branch and further evidence that modest affordable credit supply is not forthcoming from banks.

Many challenges lie ahead for the organisations and our members and we are working with the newly established ReBo (Credit Union Restructuring Board) on restructuring options within the sector to ensure that members continue to enjoy the benefits of their membership well into the future.

Kieron Brennan

CEO Irish League of Credit Unions

DON'T TAKE IT ANY MORE!

* Reading pages 1, 14, 15 and 16 of your paper (Irish Independent, July 25), in relation to the largest political corruption trial in the modern history of the State and its collapse due to the ill-health of star witness Frank Dunlop, reminded me of the 1976 film 'Network' and the infamous rant of veteran newsreader Howard Beale, which led to a posthumous Oscar for actor Peter Finch. "I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everyone knows things are bad," growled Beale.

He then proceeds to a call to arms, which would, I think, be something we could all try, to release the absolute frustration that we feel at a decade's worth of tribunals that will result in not one single person being convicted of corruption: "So I want you to get up now . . . get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and walk to the window, open it and stick your head out and shout 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more'!"

I'll be listening.

Mark Lawler

Kilmainham Dublin 8

'BUFFETTED' BY WIZARDS

* Your article ('Buffett backs Ireland in €700m deal with VHI', Irish Independent, July 25) indicates that our new benefactor – billionaire businessman Warren Buffett – is known as 'the Wizard of Omaha'. He is not. He is known as the 'Sage of Omaha'.

If this man is saving us €90m as you suggest, you should at least get his title correct.

Dr A Geneva

Drishane, West Cork

Irish Independent

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