Saturday, April 11, 2009

Rabbitte eats his Greens - the Budget and other Emergencies

Here is a photo from the recent Labour Party Conference of Jan and me with the party leader, Eamon Gilmore, with Jan in his Lismore Mayoral bling and me festooned with badges and a red rose looking quite the photographer!

Rabbitte eats his Greens - Former Labour Party Leader Pat Rabbitte's Contribution to this week's Budget Debate was simply a masterclass in razorsharp political speechmaking.

Jan, Eamon Gilmore, and me at the Party conference in Mullingar

The video clip is just too good to keep to myself - it has already been shared around Facebook and YouTube, and now can be seen by followers of this blog on the sidebar as I was not able to embed it in this post - some Green gremlin out there forbade it!

It is one of the only lighthearted moments of the last week, which has seen the 2nd savage Budget in 6 months, known variously as the Mini-Budget, the Supplementary Budget and finally the Emergency Budget.

This has a nice resonance in Ireland of the Euphemisms, where what was known globally as World War II completely passed us by in our state of Irish Neutrality, and instead we had what we termed "The Emergency" which coincided with the period from 1939-1945.

Ireland has clung to neutrality with great tenacity since then and it has not been without its somewhat Kafka-esque moments. Eamonn de Valera, our then Taosieach (Prime Minister) famously and shamefully made a trip to the German Chancellery to sign the book of condolence on the death of Adolf Hitler in 1945. This action was defended by him and his many supporters in the name of Neutrality, and indeed then President Douglas Hyde also visited Hempel to offer condolences on Hitler's death.

This was defended as a Diplomatic duty that was only revealed when the national archives were released in 2005. At least such contentious issues are rightly debated in these times, as what was deemed due deference to those in high office resulted in an unquestioning acceptance for many years. Thankfully those days are long gone and we can objectively view the errors of former national heroes in their true colours.

We will all have more time to reflect on our newfound relative penury as the Orwellian terminology and euphemisms make their impact on our salaries and payslips in May. Taxes are now Levies (much less threatening), ceilings are lowered on all entry points for same, and these were doubled, including one introduced in last October's "budget horribilis". Most salaries will be pushed back by a number of years with average monthly cuts in take-home pay of between €200-€400 - that's public sector, factoring in the Pension Levy I blogged about here.

The Labour Party called it the "Budget from Hell" and it certainly hits the lower earner and those on social welfare, as the Christmas bonus payment of a week's extra pay has been cut, and the grant for providing The one cut that really annoyed me was the cut in the grant to provide emergency alarms for older people, which is a lifeline for those living alone or in isolation.

So all in all it's been quite a week, we still are reeling from the impact of this budget, as there is a sense that while not making the catastrophic blunders of October's budget - like the near-blanket withdrawal of medical cards from over-70s - they still appear to have let the bankers and developers off the hook. The medical card debacle was reversed in jig-time after massive street protests showing that the erstwhile children of the 60's hadn't lost their revolutionary zeal.

The taxpayers and citizens now have the government putting its hands in their pockets for the foreseeable future to buy back the toxic assets of the banks and developers at what seems to be massively over-valued rates. This is all to be determined by a new "bad bank" hiding behind another euphemism - the National Asset Management Agency or NAMA - which appeared with Orwellian rapidity on Budget Day.

It remains to be seen where we will all end up in this crisis. An end to vulgar excess we can all do with, but the general impression is that the little people will still end up bearing the brunt of it all.


Peggy said...

It will be some time before we all become aware of just how savage this budget really is as there are a lot of hidden cuts that only time will reveal.
I am always amazed when watching the dail reports of how few deputies turn up for these proceedings, here they were debating the budget and there is barely a handful of them in attendance.
One way of cuting deputies salaries and expenses would be to have them clock in and only get paid for the hours they put in, attending the house in the dail bar does not count.
Have a lovely Easter break.

Catherine said...

PEGGY, you are so right, the implications will only be known in the coming months when payslips in May reflect the new levies, already I am seeing a hefty cut since the pension levy kicked in from 1st March, only saw the full impact on my last slip. And that will be well compounded in May. and of course the handful of TDs in the dail when there are debates is disgraceful. Clocking in and out would be an interesting election issue! I went canvassing with Jan on Saturday and the response was very good, but very anti-FF, you couldn't count the number of trad. FF families who swear never again will they get their vote. So maybe it is easier to be canvassing from the opposition!
Hope you are having a nice Easter - must visit your blog as I love your allotment and our polytunnel is very late if I see your seedlings!

FoodFunFarmLife said...

Lovely to 'see' you, Catherine ;) Hope that you & your loved ones had a wonderful Easter ....

The Cherry Tree Farm said...

I absolutely love seeing the parliamentary workings of other countries -- for instance, the U.S. Congress is so boring compared to Irish/British parliaments. You have such lively speeches and interruptions and hootings from the other side, and very personal comments about each other. Our politicians just sound like the most dreadful stuffed shirts reading the phone book!

I admire your direct and energetic involvement in politics. I was just thinking the other morning as I listened to the news on the radio and heard that an insurance company had gone to the Treasury Department for a bailout and gotten it (without approval from citizens or representatives) that sometimes the sense of helplessness and frustration is really quite overwhelming. The sense that there's nothing one can do, despite the fact that it IS one's money being spent. I think what has become very evident in the U.S. in the past few months is how complete unconnected to "regular" people both politicians and "big businesspeople" are. They don't live in our world whatsoever.

Getting down off the soapbox now. Love your husband's necklace! :) And you do, in fact, look extremely official! No wonder you take such good photos -- you've got such a professional look about you!! kristin

Catherine said...

LYNDA - thanks! Guess you only had seen the photo on the blog, there are way too many of me on Facebook but that's another world, not sure if you go there! I seem to be behind the lens with this new camera, but the one at the conference was taken by the party's official snapper! She uploaded thousands onto Flickr, and we could download the ones of ourselves then. Actually just realised there's a rather fetching snap of me in a hi-viz yellow jacket in the slide show of Devonshire Day where I put all the photos of that day! So you could peruse them if you wish!
We had a lovely Easter, no painted eggs but some choccie ones, creme eggs are my fave. Have you seen the funny video on how to break a (creme)egg? It is funny and someone had waayyy too much free time!
Went to dinner in a lovely restaurant in a nearby country house on Easter Sunday night with cousins who were holidaying there.

Catherine said...

KRISTIN - thanks for your kind comments on the politics - not that politics per se deserve much in the line of kindness these days. Agree about the arrogance of the bankers and insurance companies, they are over their heads in dodgy practice and think they can get the "little people" who pay their taxes to bail them out. Not too incredible what happened in your Treasury dept as we heard here of similar occurences with the Dept. of Finance sanctioning this National Asset Management Agency with no consultation with the electorate, it remains to be seen if they overvalue property of the developers when they go to buy it out, they claim they will reduce by 15% to bookvalue but the property market has declined by about 50% so we don't quite trust their figure. We watch carefully and wait, the NAMA isn't even established yet, will be shortly. The government don't believe in consultation despite their rhetoric. watching that videoclip of Labour taking out the Greens shows that, the Greens are partners in government of Fianna Fail who had to ask them on board to make up the numbers, and fobbed them off with a few toothless tiger ministries like environment and energy, up their alley but with no real power and they have become a bit laughable since joining up, as they have compromised so many of their Green credentials to their fatcat big brother party! Also FF are over a decade in power which has bred complacency and contempt for the common electorate - they become distanced when they have mercs and drivers on tap, and big pensions - after 10 years as a TD/MP they are eligible for a full pension that I would have to work 40 years for! We were canvassing for the local elections for Labour (hubby is running for town council in June) on Saturday and no-one is happy with the state of the economy and how it's being managed by the govt.
yes the art of political rhetoric is alive and well in this part of the world and the insults fly around in the name of parliamentary privilege! ( You can't get sued for what you say in the parliament however scurrilous!)
I told hubby what you said about his necklace! He'll have to give it back in June, end of term of office as Mayor! I was using his camera that night so hence the fancy Olympus hanging off me, my own camera is a tiny pocket one!

Reader Wil said...

Thanks for sharing this post with us and for the great photo of you three. You wrote about the cut in the grant to provide emergency alarms for older people. That is very annoying indeed. What people can do, is arrange a telephone circle , that's what we call a group of elderly people, who ring each other every morning just to see if every one is okay.
Thanks for your visit. I read several books by Roald Dahl. I didn't know he also lived in Norway. I thought he lived in Wales, even though he was Norwegian by birth. His parents were both Norwegian. "The witches" is set in Norway and I like that book very much, just like you. Thanks! Have a nice day!

Susan at Stony River said...

Enjoyed this post, and your last line says it beautifully. We're a family of five with three of us disabled, and my husband laid off from work: now when we most need help, all supports are threatened or already gone. So frustrating--and a bit frightening. Then to read of government excesses and incompetent boobery in the newspapers every Sunday... UGH!

So, so, so glad to find your blog!

Catherine said...

WIL - thanks for your kind comment on the photo - we were all pretty wrecked after a busy weekend and I had spent the afternoon wandering around Belvedere House - see my previous post - so we weren't quite prepared to take part in the photoshoot with the party leader after his address, but all the Mayors and candidates were lined up for it!
As for the alarms, they are pendant alarms for emergency use, so while a telephone circle is useful, I agree, it is not a substitute for the alarms which a person uses if they have a fall out of bed or in the yard and can summon help instantly. The alarm rings in the help centre and triggers a chain of phone calls to designated persons, or failing to make contact, the police. So it is more than a check to ensure they are ok. I have heard of situations where they have literally been lifesavers, where hypothermia would surely have set in. The government will have a lot on their conscience with their mean spirited cuts. The pain is not equally shared.
As for Roald Dahl you may be right about him not livinginNorway, but he must have spent time there as he seemed to know Bergen well, and I have to re-read Boy but I think the sister's boyfriend and the curious incident of the goat or sheep-turd tobacco was when they were in Norway on hols, though it might have been in Wales and I have mixed my facts up!

Catherine said...

SUSAN - thanks for your response and please add yourself as a follower to my blog, I don't post as often as I should, it seems to be a weekly event and I envy those who have the energy to post daily, but I work fulltime so it is a bit too much to do. So glad you liked my post and I suppose it is hard to see what is happening to marginalised and vulnerable especially if you are in a category that is being hit and cutbacks are directly affecting you. Certainly we are prepared to share the pain as they keep asking us but we are not happy to be scapegoated as dreadful and greedy public servants - we find ourselves trying to advocate for our patients and for those who are having simple things like pendant alarms withdrawn (see my reply to Wil above). Love your blog and your sardonic wit!
Sorry that you are having unemployment and disability problems. I remember someone saying from the disability sector that it's society that creates the disability by not facilitating people with special needs, and by not making their environment disability-proofed. I see it every day, where a bit of commonsense help like a ramp or a motorised wheelchair gives independence to someone who would otherwise be housebound. SO good luck to you all. See you on Facebook also, and hopefully here on the follower list!