Posts Tagged ‘recession’

Pre-Budget Submissions Roundup

November 29, 2009 5 comments
This is a collection of pre-budget submissions published so far and relevant to the protection of human rights in Ireland. Please feel free to let us know of others in the comments.

Disability and Carers

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Ahern on Obama’s Nobel Prize and his time as Taoiseach

It is reported in today’s Irish Examiner that former Taoiseach Bertie bertie_ahern_1013Ahern can not understand  the choice of President Obama for this year’s Nobel Prize. (I already posted on the surprise choice of the Nobel Commitee here). Mr. Ahern is quoted as saying that the choice ‘doesn’t make any sense’ and further that President Obama is probably embarrassed by his selection. The quotes come from an interview in Time Magazine with Mr. Ahern (It helpfully notes that Taoiseach is pronounced ‘Tea-shock’). In the article Mr. Ahern blames the media for his decision to step down as Taoiseach noting that they ‘kept after me’ though adding that he would have left office anyway in 2009 . He also considers that the recession can also be put at the media’s door. He asserts that when he attempted to introduce a property tax ‘the media killed me.’ While acknowledging there were mistakes made during the boom years, he would appear to be suggesting that this was largely out of his control and in the media’s. When questioned on whether he would consider running for Irish President he states that he has not considered it

It is in his remarks regarding President Obama that in many ways Mr. Ahern is at his most scathing arguing that if there were prizes for good mood music Mr. Obama would have won two of them and that the prize does not make sense. While I would agree with Mr. Ahern that the choice was ill-judged as I mentioned in the earlier post, it is strange that he is so virulent on the topic. The Examiner article notes that Mr. Ahern was once considered a possible winner of the Prize for his role in the Northern Ireland Peace Process, one wonders whether this is why Mr. Ahern is so concerned that it only be awarded to those who have achieved something and not on aspiration only.

Protestant Schools and the Economic Downturn

October 12, 2009 2 comments
Minister for Education, Batt OKeeffe TD

Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe TD

The Sunday Independent yesterday published an opinion piece by the Minister for Education, Batt O’Keeffe TD in which he responded to this article by Alan Ruddock. Mr. Ruddock had attacked the decision taken by the Minister in last year’s budget to strip a group of fee-paying Protestant secondary schools of a category of ancilliary funding – used to pay caretakers and secretaries – totalling about €3m annually. 21 of the 56 fee-paying secondary schools in the country subscribe to a Protestant ethos. In 1966, during the term of office of  the Fianna Fail Minister for Education Donagh O’Malley, the State came to an agreement with this group of schools; an ad hoc solution to an issue of accommodation of religious minorities. At the time, O’Malley planned to introduce a system of free secondary education for the first time in Ireland’s history. He succeeded. The government in which he served  recognised that because the Protestant population in Ireland was so small and so widely dispersed,  it would be impractical for the State to provide Protestant children with the type of schooling which Catholic children could easily access by virtue of being part of the religious majority: a free secondary education grounded in an appropriate religious framework. The government therefore agreed to provide ‘block funding’  which covers day to day running costs, tuition and boarding grants to Protestant schools. The amount of funding this year was €6.5m. The block funding is distributed, via the Secondary Education Committee, to support Protestant children whose parents would not otherwise be able to send them to a fee-paying school, thus closing an important ‘equality gap’ in the new secondary education regime. The block funding – so-called because it is given to the SEC in a lump sum rather than per capita as happens in the majority of schools – remains in place as it has done for over 40 years but these fee-paying schools will no longer receive ancilliary grants, which from now on will be provided only to non-fee-paying schools. They are expected to raise any necessary extra income from their own resources by taking on more students, or if necessary by joining the free education scheme. The Protestant Secondary Education blog has policy documents from a conference held in Dublin on October 3, together with a good selection of media responses, including audio clips here.

This is the second time in as many years that the Minister’s policies have provoked anger among Ireland’s Protestants, many of whom have, in the words of Cork’s Bishop Paul Colton, come to view the accommodation of Protestant education as ‘a litmus of how Ireland treats and values us’. In June of last year, four Protestant secondary schools mounted a High Court challenge to the government’s teacher redeployment scheme, which would have required them to accept teachers onto their staff who had been made redundant by school closures elsewhere in Dublin. The schools sought a declaration that it would be unconstitutional for the Minister for Education to compel them to employ teachers who were not of the Protestant faith without any assurance that these teachers would subscribe to the ethos of the schools concerned. The schools expressed concern that their hiring autonomy would be severely circumscribed. The case settled, but the terms of the settlement were not released.

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NAMA and the Right to Housing?

September 23, 2009 1 comment
Focus Ireland

Focus Ireland


NAMA, as Irish readers will know all too well, is the proposed National Asset Management Agency. To grossly simplify the story (we are not economists here at HRinI, as far as I know) NAMA will manage the property-related bad loans (considerable) of Irish banks – the hangover of our ill-fated construction boom. Where necessary, it will acquire the ‘distressed assets’ against which the loans are secured and re-use or re-sell the land to realise its value.  The idea is that cleansing Irish ‘zombie banks’ of toxic debt will kick-start lending, which will in turn facilitate fresh growth in the economy. The proposal is scarcely uncontroversial. The Irish Human Rights Commission recently highlighted the human rights impact of the economic downturn in its Annual Report. Some important questions are beginning to be asked about the policy context of NAMA, and its – largely unexplored – potential to work towards the benefit of our poorest citizens; in particular, the 56,000 people on housing waiting lists.

To that end, today’s Irish Times carries a short interview with Joyce Loughnan, the chief executive of Focus Ireland; an organisation which advocates on behalf of people who are out of home. Focus Ireland has lobbied the Government and the Opposition on the inclusion of a housing agency in the proposed NAMA scheme and has published a very interesting policy document on NAMA. Ms Loughnan – noting the gross inadequacies of existing government leasing schemes which aimed to reduce homelessness –  said:

It is absolutely inconceivable that the Government would dedicate €60 billion of taxpayers’ money to an organisation that then didn’t deliver a social return. It’s not just for schools and childcare centres, but it should be taking advantage of those empty homes we have been speaking about and land that can be developed for future social services.

In a similar vein, Threshold, which advocates for the housing rights of the socially excluded, yesterday called for NAMA property to be used to provide public housing, to alleviate the difficulties experienced by vulnerable citizens for whom private rental is not appropriate.  Threshold’s chairperson, Aileen Hadyn, said that

“Rather than selling off these properties to the first carpet-bagger that opens their cheque book, the Government should take a look at the property portfolios and identify those that could be retained to meet housing needs.”

The taxpayer, she added, was paying for this property anyway.