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Budget must be more than just a list of cutbacks

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Date Published: {J}

The one thing we already know about next Wednesday’s Budget is that it will be the most Draconian, savage set of economic proposals in the history of the State – at least until next year.

It will hit every single citizen in the pocket and drive many towards or below the poverty line, just to pay for the cost of bailing out the banks.

That’s the unfairness of it all but it’s also the reality – now what the Government has to do is to find the most equitable way of spreading the pain across the land.

Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan have promised to spare those on Social Welfare or low wages the worst of the cuts, but even the smallest reduction in income when you’re on the breadline is a cut too far.

And the call to tax the rich to make up the deficit is both naive and simplistic, because the mega-rich either have creative accountants or foreign homes to protect them against the worst ravages of any Budget.

There is no underestimating the task that lies ahead for the two Brians next week – the tax take is back at 2003 levels, anticipated at €32 billion by year end, while current spending is up more than 70% since that time, leaving a forecasted Exchequer deficit of €26 billion by year end.

In his Pre-Budget Outlook, Minister Lenihan set out three preconditions for a return to sustainable economic growth.

They involved restoring order to the public finances over the coming years; regaining international competitiveness to copper-fasten a return to solid employment growth; and properly functioning banking system. That’s the basis of his Budget plan, where, despite the protests, public sector pay remains the focus – and the unions know it.

Their stance now appears to indicate a willingness to shoulder the cuts now once they are guaranteed to be temporary and up for review when the upturn materialises.

The greater task facing Brian Lenihan is ensuring that – if you take the public sector as a sub-section of the problem overall – he must spare the poorer paid the worst of the cutbacks.

The figures show Gardaí, for example, in receipt of allowances that are impossible to justify whereas the Clerical Officer within the Civil Service is already finding it impossible to live on their existing salary.

Social Welfare cuts must target those who can absorb them most – that’s why the weighting of Children’s Allowance in favour of those on low pay is essential too.

The Government has decided that there is no scope for a hike in income tax, although the removal of the PRSI ceiling qualifies as just that by another name.

So far, all of the speculation surrounding next Wednesday’s Budget has centred on the cuts – which is fair enough considering that the Government has made saving €4 billion its priority.

But cuts alone won’t save our economy and this budget must prioritise plans for job creation and job retention; otherwise the savings will be seriously diluted by increased social welfare costs for a start.

We need to see initiatives on jobs – both existing and new – and incentives for employers to retain or increase workforce levels. We need to see breaks on rates and levies for employers and investment in training for existing workers or those who have lost their jobs.

We have to continue the capital programme to ensure our infrastructure is ready for those better days ahead and we cannot afford any further slowdown in the schools building programme either.

The world may be watching to see how deeply we cut costs to bring more balance to the books, but this is a country first and an economy second.

The Government must keep that at the core of its announcements next Wednesday – even if it is still the harshest budget in history.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

images/files/images/x3_Courthouse.jpg

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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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