Archive for December, 2011


In a statement today (22nd December), People Before Profit/ULA councillors, Melisa Halpin and Hugh Lewis condemned Labour and Fine Gael for supporting the council budget that incorporates the Household Charge and is a continuation of the government’s policies of cutbacks and flat rate taxes that will disproportionately affect the poor, the homeless, the disabled and the vulnerable.

Cllr Melisa Halpin

The budget includes a minimum cut of 9% (€2.6 million) from the Department of Local Government, but it was confirmed at the meeting last night that this funding is reliant on the Department collecting millions of euro in the Household Charge. This reduction in the Local Government Fund means that in every department in the council there are severe cutbacks to spending.

Councils across the country should be fighting these cuts that will have a severe impact on frontline services. Councillors should also ensure that the people who can least afford it will not be made to pay the most. Instead they have voted for a budget based on collecting €100 from all home owners. This Household Charge is utterly unfair as it transfers the burden of paying for services from central progressive taxes to a flat charge that sees the millionaire pay the same as the pensioner. The budget also includes a flat rate increase to burial charges, a 50% cut to the Social Inclusion budget, cuts to the community grants, cuts to disabled and elderly persons grants for adapting their houses, cuts to library services and cuts to maintaining the water infrastructure, local authority housing and council estates. There is no reduction to commercial rates or parking charges which are putting increasing pressure on smaller businesses and are bad for town centres. Meanwhile, the council will continue to pay €1.9 million to APCOA to operate street parking, without giving any cost benefit analysis of this contract, and has only reduced the fund for councillor’s expenses by €30,000, leaving over €100,000 for junkets.

Cllr Hugh Lewis

Cllrs Melisa Halpin and Hugh Lewis proposed reducing conference expenses to €1000 per councillor and cutting the allowance for chairing the Strategic Policy Committees by 50%. They proposed using the remaining money (€133,600) to offset the cut to the Social Inclusion fund and increase the funds available for disabled and elderly persons grants. The proposal fell to another proposal that accepted the budget and reduced the junket fund by a mere €30,000.

Cllr Melisa Halpin said: “It is hardly surprising that Fine Gael would support this budget but the Labour Party should be ashamed of itself. They have accepted a budget that sees the pensioner who has €219 per week pay the same Household Charge of €100 as the millionaire. They have voted for an array of cuts that will hit the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled. The flat rate increase to burial fees (a plot in Shanganagh goes from €2700 to €2900 and interment fees from €765 to €940) again is a regressive tax that will disproportionately affect the poor. They have voted to cut the Social Inclusion Fund by 50%. Already last year we saw the Festival of World Cultures fall by the way side, now this cut.

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In a statement today (Tuesday 20th December), Richard Boyd Barrett TD and Finance spokesperson for the United Left Alliance has pledged support for today’s strike by 300 EBS workers, who are demanding the re-instatement of their annual “13th month” payment. (Video explaining background to strike HERE)

Deputy Boyd Barrett who first raised the issue in the Dail last week will visit the picket lines of the EBS workers this morning to show his support for the strikers.

Deputy Boyd Barrett condemned the failure of Finance Minister Michael Noonan to re-instate the payment in the bank which is majority state owned. He also said it was “beyond belief” that the Labour Party, and its leader Tainiste Eamon Gilmore had defended the cutting of the payment in the Dail last week.

Deputy Boyd Barrett accused Minister Noonan and the government of “cynical political dishonesty” for suggesting that the withdrawal of an average payment of €2500 from each of the 300 workers was justified in the context of reining in banker’s bonuses.

Deputy Boyd Barrett said that the annual payment to low and middle income workers in the EBS was part of the workforces annual salary and was in no way comparable to the sort of bonuses paid to bank executives and managers, which had contributed to the reckless lending policies in the banking sector that had caused the property bubble and current financial crisis.

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Richard Boyd Barrett TD on Tonight with Vincent Browne. 13th December 2011

Parliamentary Question reveals Minster for Finance paid 6.2 million to bond traders Rothschild for advice on banking crisis

In a statement today Richard Boyd Barrett TD has expressed disbelief and outrage on receipt of an answer to a parliamentary question relating to outsourcing in government departments and the public sector generally.

An answer to a parliamentary questions revealed that in 2010 the NTMA paid put €6.2 million to bond traders and wealth managers Rothschild for advice to the Minister for Finance on how to deal with the banking crisis.

Deputy Boyd Barrett pointed out that this means that on the absolutely most important issue facing Ireland in terms of an unprecedented economic crisis and whether or not to pay off senior bondholders, the Irish government actually paid bondholders to advise them on what to do.

It is hardly surprising the representatives of bondholders advised the government to prioritise bondholders with devastating consequences for the country and for Ireland’s economic future.

This raises the question of how long have we been taking advice from these private corporate interests and are we still.

It also raises questions about conflicts of interest when the state is taking advice from private interests with a stake in government decisions.

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Richard Boyd Barrett TD speaking on the boycott of the government’s proposed Household Charge on RTE’s Pat Kenny Show today (15th December 2011)

Discussion begins around 8 mins into the clip (to listen click on image below):

 

A few tokens have been handed out in today’s budget but these are more than cancelled out by the damage done yesterday

This is a cruel and senseless budget. The government has made a cold calculated decision to attack the poor, the young and the vulnerable in order to protect the bankers and the super-wealthy. It is as simple and obscene as that. It is immoral in the extreme that any government would choose to attack, children, young people, students, lone-parents, the disabled and those dependent on rent allowance. If you were to put together a comprehensive list of the most vulnerable sectors of society in order to attack them, you could do a much nastier job than this. Minister Noonan is making the point that income will remain untouched but outgoings will go through the roof with increases in VAT, motor-tax, carbon tax and the introduction of the house-hold charge. The nasty and aggressive cuts announced yesterday will see numbers of families being plunged into poverty and widespread destruction of our public services. The government’s claims that this is a budget about job creation are scandalous when you examine the amount of jobs that will be lost as a result of this budget.

In 2012 alone we will lose 7,500 direct jobs through the reduction of the capital spending programme while there will be a reduction of another 6,000 public sector employees. In total this government will over-see the loss of 37,500 jobs in the public sector. Unite the union in their response to the budget estimate that this alone will reduce GDP by €400 million and consumer demand by € 300 million. Flat taxes, charges on goods and services hit the least well-off – it is a simple as that. A family of 5 on social welfare could lose 1000 in child benefit, 100 household charge, 200 increase in school bus charges which means they will pay more than the net effect of the reduction in the pay of Bertie Ahern or Brian Cowen.

But of course, there are alternatives.

We don’t have to pay:

  • 3 billion next year to the toxic Anglo-Irish bank
  • 6 billion in interest repayments on the debt run up by developers, bankers and bondholders

We can stop:

  • Paying-off the bondholders and propping up toxic/casino banks whether in Ireland or Europe
  • Cancel the debt – It’s not our debt!

The government argues that if they do that, money won’t come out of the ATM’s because Europe will cut us loose. But Europe is in bits, its economy is failing and the markets (as has been broadcast today) don’t believe the Eurozone can pay its debts – because even the anarchic markets, who caused this mess can see, that if Europe tries to pick up the tab for the bad gambling debts of banks and bondholders it will bury itself in an unsustainable morass of debt and propel itself towards a 1930’s style recession.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD in his statement today asked if, “the Labour Party TD’s and ministers believe that they would have been elected – if they had told people before the election that they were contemplating such vicious measures as these. They posed as the champions of the less-well-off, they got their votes on that basis and in double quick time they have stabbed the people who voted for them in the back”

The People Before Profit TD said, “to cut the disability allowance for young people is obscene. To hit lone parents when every study shows they are already disproportionately affected by the economic crisis is shameful”. Richard Boyd Barrett said today “When governments fail people have to act. The people’s hopes that a change of government would lead to a change in policy and a way out of this unfair crisis have been cruelly betrayed” “The only answer to that betrayal is for the people to take to the streets, to down tools, to take control of this situation themselves, to stand with our brothers and sisters in Greece, Portugal, in Italy, or as we saw last week in Britain and Northern Ireland.”

“As James Connolly understood, it is only through people power and the power of working people that change comes and that societal crisies and injustices are resolved. I hope over the coming weeks and months, we will see the people of this country begin to take that kind of action and the ULA will dedicate itself to building and supporting such a movement of the people.”

Today’s Budget Cuts announced by Minister Brendan Howlin are savage, senseless and stupid. There were alternatives to this austerity such as repudiating the debt and taxing the super-wealthy but it was a political choice to hit the least well-off in society rather than going for the super-wealthy.

The most obvious victims of today’s budget are the children of this country.

The cuts that will affect children:

-Cutting child benefit for the 3rd and 4th children in families

-Cutting the “Back to school” allowance

-Cutting capitation to schools by 2%

-Discontinuing disability allowance for 16 and 17 year olds

-Cutting disability, mental health and childrens services to save 50 million

-Reducing the fuel allowance period

-Cutting rent allowance

-Reducing one parent family allowance

Children and one parent families will be hit hard by this budget with the poorest families being savaged to protect the bankers and the super-wealthy. Interest on debt with the 3.1 billion to Anglo is costing us more than the budget deficit gap the government is hoping to bridge by bringing in this senseless austerity so there was always an alternative to prioritise ordinary people. Why is Howlin attacking lone parents and the elderly? The cuts announced today come on on top of existing austerity measures that have already provoked a worrying rise in child poverty. Childrens charity Barnardos estimates that approximately 96,000 children are now living in consistent poverty. Reducing the one parent family payment will see families who are already struggling being driven further into hand to mouth conditions. One parent families will be hit, not just by the cut to the lone family payment, but cumulatively by the cuts to rent allowance, back to school allowance and cuts to other childrens’ services. The cut to the fuel allowance period will see these children living in even more deprived and cold conditions while the elderly will also suffer. The last available data showed that there were up to 2,000 excess winter deaths in Ireland each year. Many of these are older people dying from cold-related illnesses such as pneumonia, heart attack and stroke. According to figures from the EHRA (eastern regional Health Authority) Ireland experiences a 30-32% increase in deaths each Winter, while Norway only sees a 2% increase.

In a statement today Richard Boyd Barrett TD said, “I would ask how many deaths will Brendan Howlin and Joan Burton take responsiblity for as cutting the fuel allowance season will do nothing to bring down the figures of people dying from cold related illnesses”. The People Before Profit TD also stated, “Savaging the already vulnerable with these vicious cuts is going to further cripple our economy and claims that this budget is going to help the country on the path to economic recovery are ludicrous”.

Richard Boyd Barrett encourages people to get to the Dail tomorrow at 6pm to show opposition to these austerity measures.

RTE Radio One:

Richard Boyd Barrett TD United Left Alliance on RTE Radio 1- Pat Kenny Show, Dec 2nd (starts 1hr 30 mins 50 secs in)

Today FM:

Richard Boyd Barrett TD United Left Alliance on Today FM- Last Word with Matt Cooper Dec 1st (Part 3: 7 mins 50 secs in)

Irish Times:

Richard Boyd Barrett TD speaking at launch of ULA Budget Statement “United Left Alliance accuses Noonan of acting like a lemming

Austerity Is Not Working: Tax The Rich, Invest In Jobs

Next weeks budget will see further drastic cuts in the living standards of workers, the unemployed and the poor. Since the onset of the crisis in 2008 government policy has focused on bailing out banks and speculators and making the working class pick up the bill.

Hardly a cent has been taken from those who have the real wealth in society. The effect of this policy has been lengthening dole queues and impoverishment with rising inequality in a society that was already deeply unequal. The wealth of the super-rich has increased throughout the crises. Despite promising otherwise the Labour party in government is continuing with the programme of austerity at

the behest of the EU, the IMF and the ECB. While govelling to the super-rich tax-exiles, by inviting them to the Farmleigh Conference, Labour Ministers are imposing hardship on pensioners and the poor by removing heating units and cutting benefits. Labour has caved in to the demands of the markets.

The only way out of the current crises is to generate real economic activity and create jobs. The policy of austerity has been a disaster for ordinary people and has been a total failure.

Read the full United Left Alliance Budget Statement- Click on the attachment below:

ULA Budget Statement December 2011

THE EMERGENCY LEGISLATION WE REALLY NEED:

  • A €100,000 CAP ON PUBLIC SECTOR PAY & €50,000 ON PENSIONS
  • MEASURES TO RECOVER THE ASSETS OF DEVELOPERS TRANSFERRED TO SPOUSES
  • LEGISLATION ON TAX EXILES
  • A SUPER-LEVY ON THE SUPER-WEALTHY

In the Dail today (November 29th), Richard Boyd Barrett, TD for People Before Profit-ULA, in the debate on the Financial Emergency Measures (Amendment) Act 2011 argued that such a bill should include a number of more far-reaching measures that target the earnings, pensions and assets of the wealthiest sections of Irish society. Deputy Boyd Barrett said that the Bill, which contains measures to give effect to the recent referendum on judges pay and some other items relating to pay and pensions for top civil servants and politicians, should also have included other measures. The emergency measures Deputy Boyd Barrett will advocate include: an across the board cap of €100,000 on all high earning public servants, politicians and others paid with public funds; €50,000 annual cap on all public sector pensions (including politicians); measures to recover assets transferred by developers to spouses; measures to impose taxes on tax exiles, a super-levy on the assets of the super-wealthy and on corporate profits. Deputy Boyd Barrett said: “Of course, the public voted overwhelmingly to allow for reductions in judges pay but on its own this measure is wholly inadequate and tokenistic. It is a measure designed to look as if the government is responding to public anger about the huge earnings, pensions and assets of the very rich, when in fact there is no serious intent to target those at the top. We need a whole series of emergency measures that seriously tackle the gross income and wealth inequalities that exist in our society, and the grossly unfair way that low and middle income earners are being savaged with austerity to pay off the gambling debts of banks and speculators, while the super-wealthy are left unscathed.

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