Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Inspiring Political Leadership in Ireland as Recession Edges Towards Depression

Ireland is attempting to undertake public sector expenditure of €54 billion in 2009 to be funded by potential tax revenue of €34 billion. GDP in 2009 may be more than 10% lower causing the current recession to become a depression. The national debt in March was €54.24 billion and is set to rise as Irish banks become paralysed zombies.

There has been much comment about burden sharing as unemployment soars and job prospects are virtually non-existent. The following is a verbatim extract from the budget speech of Brian Lenihan TD, Minister for Finance on Tuesday, April 7 2009.

“Fairness must be the cornerstone of all our efforts to achieve economic renewal. Everyone wants fairness but there is less agreement about what it means. For many, it means the next person should pay. But the reality is everyone must give according to their means. Those who have most must give most. But before we ask anyone else to give, we in this House and in this Government must examine our own costs. Those of us in politics have been entrusted with a great privilege by the people. We must lead by example.
  • The Government has decided to introduce a number of additional changes to the remuneration of Deputies and Senators.
  • There will be a 10% reduction in all expenses other than mileage rates where a 25% reduction has already taken place.
  • Deputies will no longer receive long service payments or increments.
  • The arrangement whereby former Ministers are paid Ministerial pensions while they are still members of the Oireachtas will be discontinued.
  • Oireachtas members who are on paid leave of absence as teachers may no longer avail of the arrangement whereby they can keep the difference between their teachers’ salary and the cost of employing a replacement.

The allowances paid to Oireachtas Committee chairs will be halved and the payments to whips and vice-chairs are to be abolished.

The Oireachtas Commission has put forward its own proposals for a reduction in the number of Committees and I am happy to leave that matter to these Houses.

Some of these changes will require legislation which will be introduced shortly. The members of this Government reduced their salaries by 10% last October. Ministers of State made a similar reduction. The public service pension levy was applied to members of the Government and Ministers of State. As a result, Ministers have seen a reduction of one fifth in their incomes”.

But it has now transpired that none of these arrangements apply to current incumbents, just to newbies! The guys and gals in the Oireachtas didn't share the Minister's vision of asking for cuts to begin in Leinster House.

The Irish Independent canvassed 32 Oireachtas members and asked "will you give up your ministerial pension?" The highest benificiary was Bertie Ahern, who stands to lose €111,235 and he indicated 'yes' with a clarity reminiscent of his vote for Albert Reynolds when Fianna Fail were choosing a candidate to contest the 1997 presidential election. 25 of those canvassed could not be contacted or decliedn to answer

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