Howlin,Labour Protects Super-Rich from Tax Rise

April 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Statement Seamus Healy TD    087-2802199

Seamus Healy TD—Leaders Questions  Thursday April 10     Listen Live   http://wp.me/p1Uvd5-B0

Minister Brendan Howlin , Labour, holds the second most senior economic ministry.

At leaders questions, Seamus Healy TD took the Labour Party to task for bringing in regressive Budgets which hit the poor harder than the rich (See ESRI Report on recent budgets http://www.esri.ie/UserFiles/publications/QEC2013Win_SA_Callan.pdf)

The 2014 budget was more unfair to the poor than the FF/Green budgets. He sought the restoration of the respite grant for carers, cuts in home heating allowances and child benefit. He called for increased taxes on the 10,000 who earn on average 595,000 per year each (Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan in reply to a parliamentary question on Oct 3,  2012). Deputy Healy pointed out that the total gross financial assets of households (324 Billion) are now back above the peak 2006 level (Table 3 Institutional Sector Accounts Central Statistics Office 2013)                                         

The bulk of these assets are held by the top 10% of the population (all those with mortgages and/or credit card debt have negative financial assets- houses, farms and business premises are not  financial assets). Deputy Healy sought that a wealth tax be placed on very large financial assets of the super-rich.

The arrogant response of Minister  Howlin (standing in for Eamonn Gilmore) was to describe the question as “drivel” and to accuse Deputy Healy of proposing “fantasy taxes” He suggested that an increase in income tax on those on 595,000  would not yield significant revenue  (Conservative friends of the rich have been making this argument for centuries) . He claimed that the local property tax which leaves the financial assets of the wealthy untouched and applies to the unemployed was an adequate response.

Any reasonably numerate person can calculate that an extra tax on the total of 5.95 Billion earned  each year by the top 10,000 income recipients and on the 324 billion in financial assets would bring significant extra revenue to the state. Howlin and the Labour Party do not want to listen. They attack the poor and those on middle incomes instead. That is why the Labour Party is heading for wipe-out and oblivion.

 

Seamus Healy TD

 

Irish Examiner Friday April 11  Juno McEnroe

 

Independent TD Seamus Healy yesterday called on the Government to introduce an asset or wealth tax in the next budget.

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Mr Healy pointed to ESRI findings that the last budget had the greatest impact on low-income groups.

Labour had reneged on election pledges in 2011 and cut payments for the vulnerable, including child benefit, he said.

“It made promises with full knowledge of the situation in 2011. The assets of the super rich are back above peak levels in 2006, according to the Central Statistics Office,” Mr Healy said.

He called on the Coalition to introduce a wealth tax on those who earn over €595,000 a year.

Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, rejected his criticism and said the TD engaged in “fantasy” taxes.

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All Mortgage Distress Cases Not “Solvable” Despite Assurance by Taoiseach At Leaders Questions

All Mortgage Distress Cases Not “Solvable” Despite Assurance by Taoiseach At Leaders Questions

Thousands of people are in danger of losing their homes.
On Wednesday last, at Leaders Questions in The Dail, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that if people engaged with their lenders all mortgage distress cases were “solvable”. Seamus Healy Td, who raised the matter, was accused of scaremongering about people losing their homes.
But for the second day in a row, the Taoiseach has been shown to be completely wrong. The Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI) has to-day revealed that only a handful of mortgages have been restructured through the insolvency procedure over the 6 months since it came into effect. Seamus had pointed out to Enda Kenny several weeks ago that 30,000 householders would be unable to avail of the process because their incomes were below the minimum allowable expenses under the Insolvency Act. Now the advocacy groups for those in mortgage distress-Phoenix, New Beginnings, Flac and Irish Mortgage Holders Association- have confirmed that this is one of two major reasons that the system is failing. Many people have no money to give the bank. The second reason is that the bank has too much power under the act to veto settlements. So even if the householder has some money to pay the bank, most such householders cannot avail of it either. The system is not working.
Yesterday the Taoiseach told Seamus Healy that it was untrue to say that a house was being repossessed every day. Within two hours this was shown to be false at the sitting of the Oireachtas Committee on Finance. The Central Bank website showed that already almost two householders per day were losing their homes. This figure is to rise sharply as the number of repossession processes initiated in the second half of 2013 increased by a factor of six-from 565 to 33,000.
The government parties are trying to cover up the problem until after the local elections

Professor Ray Kinsella , Professor of Banking at UCD, has supported the view of Seamus Healy TD that the extent  of repossessions of homes now in train constitutes a major crisis.

In his column in the Irish Examiner to-day Friday April 4, Professor Kinsella says:

But there are also developments in the wider economy that impact on health, including mental health, that is left pushed to the outside of a policy calculus on UHI. A notable example is the exponential increase in housing repossession now under way and which will inevitably and inexorably impose the most severe levels of mental stress, and worse, on the health of tens of thousands of householders.

The Government knows this to be the case — the figures cited in the Dáil recently by Séamus Healy TD are truly shocking. TDs have repeatedly referred to the causes of this crisis and what needs to be done. Mainstream politics is in denial.”

A further raft of repossession cases will come before circuit court sittings in the coming week

 

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ESRI Economic Forecasts-Worse than Weather Forecasts!

December 25, 2013 Leave a comment

The Economic and Social Research Institute infamously forecast a soft landing to the bubble! Now it is forecasting a growth rate of 3% for the Irish Economy next year. The Institute has many professors and highly qualified staff. When challenged, Professor John Fitzgerald replied: “I never claimed to be infallible”. That was, of course, the last thing of which he had been accused! How could this high powered Institute get it so wrong? It wasn’t just a few percentage points out in the growth rate.

It is understandable that forecasters linked to finance houses and even newspapers habitually paint a rosy picture. Their employers have a vested interest in rising share values and higher levels of business.

But why The ESRI?  It has no direct financial interest in over-optimistic forecasting.

True, the right to academic freedom conferred by the Universities Act does not apply to ESRI Academic staff. But then with the exception of UCD Professor, Morgan Kelly, none of the business/economics faculties covered themselves in glory either!

The ESRI and the business faculties are committed to the survival of capitalism and to the notion that, if regulated properly, it can function in the interest of humanity. This predisposes these institutions to give favourable economic forecasts. To them it is unthinkable that the system itself is the cause of misery to billions and will inevitably collapse.

But there are special factors predisposing the ESRI to cheer-lead the capitalist government in power and to reinforce its message.

The governing board has the following composition according to the ESRI website: “ESRI Council members are elected at the Institute’s AGM for a three year term. They represent a cross-section of ESRI members: academia, civil services, state agencies, business and civil society. Council Members: Laurence Crowley, Chairman of ESRI, Chairman, Gaisce; Frances Ruane, Director of the Institute (ex officio);Vani Borooah, Professor of Applied Economics, University of Ulster; John Buckley, former Comptroller and Auditor General;Patrick Honohan, Governor, Central Bank of Ireland; Paul Johnson, Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies, London;Michael Kelly, former Chairman, Higher Education Authority;Philip Lane, Professor of International Macroeconomics, Trinity College Dublin;Hannah McGee, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Royal College of Surgeons;Padraig McManus, Chairman, Eircom; David Moloney, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform;Brid O’Brien, Head of Policy and Media, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed ;Gerry O’Hanlon, former Director General, Central Statistics Office.

Is it possible to imagine a body more representative of the Irish elite or more linked to the government of the day?

Furthermore a practice has arisen under which any candidate for election to the council at the AGM of the Institute must be PRE-APPROVED by the existing council!!!!. In other words the council is self-perpetuating!!

Citizens are paying for this Institute through their taxes!

Clearly the Institute has no independence from the Irish establishment.

This arrangement must not continue.

There is an interesting discussion on the failure of economic forecasting generally on Michael Roberts Blog:

http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-failure-of-forecasting/

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Labour Lowest for Decades in Red C Poll

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

It is important to realise that the 9% attributed to Labour by RED C is not an increase on the 6% attributed to it on Oct 1 by Irish Times IPSOS/MRBI. This is because these polling companies process the raw data quite differently. Dr  Adrian Kavanagh(NUI Maynooth) has pointed out that Labour is polling consistently higher in Red C polls. In previous messages, I have shown how Red C unduly elevates the Labour (and the FG) votes. This is basically because REd C allocates half the “DONT’T Knows” (after the c. 10% who are unlikely to vote are excluded) in the proportion achieved by the parties in the last general election as recalled by those polled! This cannot fail to advantage Labour and FG and to disadvantage FF , SF and Others. I believe that this process is unjustified in a rapidly changing and unprecedented political situation, The IPSOS/MRBI figure(6%) for Labour is the lowest since 1987. The RED C figure(9%) for Labour is the lowest for decades. According to Dr Kavanagh, based on essentially  similar raw data in both polls, if IPSOS/MRBI forecast turns out to be correct in a general election, Labour will get between zero and four seats. If the REDC forecast turns out to be correct, Labour will get 9 seats  In any event Labour will suffer huge losses in the local and European elections

RED C explains its treatment of raw data here:
http://redcresearch.ie/blog/do-undecided-voters-desire-for-new-party

Analysis by Dr Kavanagh, including allocation of seats by constituency in accordance with the poll, is available here:  http://politicalreform.ie/2013/10/26/apres-la-guerre-constituency-level-analyses-of-post-budget-opinion-polls/

Paddy Healy

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ESRI In Denial-Opinion Slot for Director in IRISH TIMES

January 12, 2012 1 comment

ESRI in Denial
The Irish Times (Jan 12) has given free rein to the ESRI to cover up its past. Above all, ESRI failed to give adequate warning of the danger to the Irish economy from the combination of excessive bank borrowing abroad and excessive lending both at home and abroad.
The level of denial by the ESRI itself and the extent of the protection from criticism it has enjoyed in the media has particular dangers for citizens. The dangers in the current austerity policy are sure to be understated by ESRI if radical change in the governance of the Institute does not take place.
ESRI director is given the facility of a personal opinion piece in the newspaper, to-day Jan 12. In addition, under the heading “Director says ESRI economy warnings ignored“ Paul Cullen of the Irish Times political staff wrote an article which contained no quotations from anybody other than the ESRI director. I had been interviewed for half an hour on telephone by Paul Cullen in advance of the publication of the article. The article begins: “SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS deliberately ignored warnings from the Economic and Social Research Institute about the dangers of an overheating economy, according to its director, Prof Frances Ruane. Prof Ruane yesterday defended the independence of the ESRI and the accuracy of its forecasting in the face of trenchant criticism last week by departing staff member Richard Tol.” In a third article, also by Paul Cullen, some criticism is carried including a criticism of the governance of the Institute by myself. This article says that the Institute circulated Morgan Kelly’s article (July 1997) predicting the “bust” without saying that the Institute had dissociated itself from it! As I explain below, the Institute was saying the opposite at the time.
What are the facts? The Irish economy was in mortal danger in Summer 2007. “Members of the Media should note that Professor Morgan Kelly is not a staff member of The ESRI. Whilst this Article has been accepted for publication by The ESRI, the views expressed are not the views of The ESRI”. This is the legend that accompanied the circulation by ESRI of the article by Morgan Kelly in July 2007 predicting the bursting of the property bubble and its consequences. There is no record in the article of the director being asked to explain this disclaimer.(The journalist had discussed this contention in my letter to all media with me)
But what was the ESRI itself saying at the same time in Summer 2007? In Spring 2006 the Institute had predicted a soft landing saying: “We add our voice to those expressing concern about the possibility of a bubble bursting. However, this does not imply that a sharp fall will occur. A soft landing is still the more likely outcome.” In its Quarterly Economic Commentary, Summer 2007, a “smooth transition” was predicted. “As the housing boom comes to an end, the economy must move resources to other areas of economic activity, such that the transition is as smooth as possible in terms of output and employment. We are optimistic that a smooth transition will occur and this is reflected in our forecasts for services and industry growth. However, if the current high rate of CPI inflation feeds into excessive wage demands, this could endanger a smooth transition. (Preamble to QEC, Summer 2007). And in its General Assessment, the same publication states : “With employment growth slowing, tax revenues growing more slowly than last year and early indicators of activity in house building pointing towards a slowdown, our task in producing forecasts has been to estimate whether the slowdown will be moderate or otherwise.For now, our belief is that the slowdown will indeed be moderate.”
The same publication pointed to dangers to their optimistic outcome. Was there any mention of excessive bank borrowing and lending? Not a word. The main danger was wage inflation according to ESRI. Government and employers cannot have been unhappy with that!
The contention in my letter to the media that the warnings were so understated as to be totally ineffective is more than justified. This is particularly so as the warnings were addenda to optimistic predictions at a time when the country was hurtling towards receivership.

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No Academic Freedom at Economic and Social Research Institute

January 6, 2012 4 comments

Professor Richard Tol recently departed from the Economic and Social Reserch Institute. In an interview with Colm Keena (Irish Times Jan 2) he criticised the lack of academic freedom at the Institute. Read full article pasted below. As the role of the ESRI is to advise the government and the citizens on economic matters the statements made by Professor Tol should give rise to great concern. Yet ESRI had not seen fit to comment on these statements(Jan 2) until Sunday Jan 8. I believe that my letters to the media and my tweets played a role in eliciting the reply. The issue is covered in an article in Sunday Independent Jan 8 (Analysis, Daniel McConnell P8) and was discussed on Marian Finucane Show on Sunday Jan 8. Richard Toll, in the course of his interview with Daniel McConnell, stated “You work on the basis of professional integrity. In the ESRI you are not supposed to talk outside your area of expertise. That is perfectly acceptable. However, in the last two years or so there was quite strong pressure from the director to keep messages out of the media that are not politically acceptable or that might upset council members or funders.” A tweet by Richard Toll is also quoted:”It was funny to hear academics complain about distant threats to academic freedom. At the ESRI, we were muffled,” The ESRI has denied the allegations saying: “The allegations made by Richard Tol are wholly unsubstantiated.”The article from the Sunday Independent is pasted below.
In the course of the Marian Finucane Show distinguished Journalist, Sam Smyth said:”They say that if you live in Rome you shouldn’t fight with the Pope and there is a relationship between the state and the ESRI”. He seemed to be justifying the ESRI position. Of course, the lack of freedom for the ESRI and its researchers to criticise government policy is the core issue.
My letter(text below) to the editor on this matter was published in Irish Independent to-day, Jan 6

From Paddy Healy Convener of Campaign for Academic Freedom, 086-4183732
88 Griffith Court,
Fairview,
Dublin 3

Dear Editor,
Academic Freedom and ESRI
“Members of the Media should note that Professor Morgan Kelly is not a staff member of The ESRI. Whilst this Article has been accepted for publication by The ESRI, the views expressed are not the views of The ESRI”. This is the legend that accompanied the circulation by ESRI of the article by Morgan Kelly in July 2007 predicting the bursting of the property bubble and its consequences. Professor Richard Tol ,who has recently left ESRI, is right when he says: “the institute did issue warnings about policy during the Ahern years, but did not do so loudly enough”.
In fact the warnings were so understated as to be totally ineffective.
The allegations of lack of independence and absence of academic freedom for researchers at ESRI by Richard Tol are a very serious matter for Irish citizens. The institute is largely funded by the state. Citizens are entitled to expect full and unbiased information in economic matters. The council of ESRI is a self-perpetuating establishment club. Candidates for election to the governing body must be pre-approved by a majority of the existing members of the council.
The remedy for this extremely unsatisfactory situation follows from the remark by Richard Tol “In a university you can say what you like if you behave responsibly. It’s not the same with the ESRI”. Clearly the ESRI should be subsumed into a university or other third level institute where academic freedom is either guaranteed by law or enshrined in contracts of employment.
Yours sincerely,
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Note from Paddy Healy
In 2005, as president of Teachers Union of Ireland, I was proposed for a vacancy on the Council of ESRI by Dublin Institute of Technology having been a member of the Governing Body and Academic Council of DIT for several years.
My nomination was declared invalid at the AGM as my candidacy was not “pre-approved” by the existing Council.

Economist criticises aspects of ESRI
COLM KEENA
Mon, Jan 02, 2012
ENERGY ECONOMIST Richard Tol, who has left the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) to take up the position of professor of economics with Sussex University, has criticised aspects of the public think-tank.
Prof Tol said the financial position of the institute affected the independence of the work it produced. He said people who worked there were discouraged from expressing personal opinions to journalists or on social media sites such as Twitter.
Efforts to contact representatives of the institute were unsuccessful.
Prof Tol spoke to The Irish Times yesterday after he had posted a number of comments on Twitter about his decision to leave the ESRI after five and a half years. “In a university you can say what you like if you behave responsibly. It’s not the same with the ESRI,” he said. “If you violate policy and upset people, you can get into trouble.”
He said the institute’s independence was compromised by the fact it got so much of its funding from government. He said this could manifest itself in the way the research it conducts is put into the public domain.
He was critical of the standard of information technology available at the institute.
In one of his tweets he said it was not a coincidence he was one of five senior research professors who had left over the past number of years. The institute has about 40 research assistants and about 10 research professors, he told The Irish Times. “So five in the last five years is significant.”
The ESRI was set up during the Lemass era to improve the quality of policy analysis available to the government.
Prof Tol said the institute did issue warnings about policy during the Ahern years, but did not do so loudly enough.
He said the institute did not have a banking expert even though during the bubble years banking was one of the economy’s largest sectors. “So the whole thing of the bank crisis caught the ESRI from left field.”
The international financial crisis, he said, was caused by factors that the whole of the international economics profession believed could not happen. “So you can’t blame the ESRI on that.”
When Ireland was joining the euro the institute had warned that fiscal policy would have to take account of the new situation, but Charlie McCreevy then became minister for finance “and went in the opposite direction to where we should be going”.
This was criticised by the institute but not loudly enough, he said. “The ESRI can make its voice heard, but it didn’t.”
Prof Tol said the view of many people in the institute now was on the financial threat to its survival – and personal relief that they had a job.
He said there were many positive aspects to working in the institute, not least the people he worked alongside and the fact he was able to engage in applied research.
A native of the Netherlands, he said he would be sad to leave Ireland, which he really loved. However, his wife was a civil engineer and they had two children.
“Ireland is facing 10 years of austerity. Leaving Ireland is the best thing you can do at the moment if you are responsible for a young family.”
© 2012 The Irish Times
Daniel McConnell: A fearless whistleblower or a disgruntled crank?
The ESRI and Richard Tol are at war since the economist’s bitter departure, writes Daniel McConnell

It was a most bizarre image. The lead story on the main evening news on RTE showed a scruffy, long-haired foreigner packing up his house to move to England.

This same man starkly warned that despite cuts of over €24bn in government spending since 2008 Ireland faces another decade of austerity.

But most controversially, Richard Tol, non-conformist voice and energy economist, also had some harsh words for his former employers and colleagues in the State’s economic think tank, the Economic Social and Research Institute (ESRI).

During that RTE interview, he called into question the organisation’s independence and condemned it for a lack of transparency.

However, online — his favoured medium — Tol went for the jugular.

Over a 48-hour period, the 42-year-old Dutch academic made a host of serious allegations into how the ESRI operates, about its transparency, its relationship with Government and how it is funded.

Today, the ESRI hits back very strongly at the various allegations made by Tol online and during an interview with this newspaper. It vehemently denies the failings alleged by Tol, rejecting his outlook almost entirely. “The allegations made by Richard Tol are wholly unsubstantiated.”

His criticisms of the ESRI on television were somewhat muted and restricted, no doubt by the station’s lawyers, and Tol himself is bemused that his departure was given so much prominence. “It is a slow news day if the lead story is the hairy guy packing a box,” he tweeted.

But it was on Twitter that Tol made the most serious allegations about the organisation.

He accused it of being a xenophobic and nepotistic body which is caught in a timewarp using antiquated technology. He also stated that he was the fifth senior person to leave the institute, implying cultural and endemic problems at the ESRI.

“It was funny to hear academics complain about distant threats to academic freedom. At the ESRI, we were muffled,” he tweeted.

“The wife said: The ESRI reflects all that is good and bad about Irish society. She is right,” he wrote a short time later.

For those left behind in the ESRI, Tol is a trouble-making crank who has sought to wash his dirty laundry in public.

For others, in a country which has a shameful record of treating whistleblowers poorly, Tol was a welcome dissenting voice holding up a mirror to reveal our flaws as well as our strengths.

In the wake of his outbursts online, the Sunday Independent spoke to Tol to try and see if he would elaborate on the serious allegations he made about the state’s economic think tank.

According to Tol, the ESRI has many faults and many positives. The faults, he says, are incredibly serious and strike to the core of its credibility. He calls into question its independence and its transparency.

“Transparency is most important and at the ESRI the models used for our analysis is not transparent at all. The way it is, you aren’t sure who contributed what to a particular paper; accessibility to information is not there. This is one of the most serious issues affecting the ESRI,” he said.

I ask him about independence and academic freedom.

Tol detailed his often fractious relationship with his superiors within the ESRI, and said that clear pressure was brought to bear on him and his fellow researchers by the director of the ESRI, Frances Ruane, to keep “politically unacceptable” messages suppressed.

“You work on the basis of professional integrity. In the ESRI you are not supposed to talk outside your area of expertise. That is perfectly acceptable. However, in the last two years or so there was quite strong pressure from the director to keep messages out of the media that are not politically acceptable or that might upset council members or funders.”

He said that he had fallen foul of Ruane’s instructions and was disciplined as a result.

“The ESRI is supposed to be an academic institution,

where you can speak on the basis of evidenced-based analysis. Disciplinary measures have been taken. Pressure came in the form of conversations, emails and letters. Such measures have been taken against me. I have had many conversations with the director, so my comments would not have come as any surprise to her,” he said.

In response, the ESRI said: “ESRI researchers are free to participate in public debate. There are no restrictions on ESRI staff members discussing their research in whatever forum they deem appropriate. Indeed, research staff members have participated in wide-ranging discussions in many media outlets.”

The Sunday Independent has obtained a copy of the institute’s protocols for publishing material, and researchers are subject to a host of detailed instructions in how to “disseminate” information to the public.

Researchers must run press releases by the director or her nominee before release, and opinion pieces for national publication in a newspaper must be cleared by a colleague, head of division or the director before being submitted. Researchers are permitted to upload material to certain websites like the Irisheconomy.ie without clearance from superiors if it is in their field of expertise.

“Staff at the ESRI know there is a policy about the relaying of information and are expected to adhere to that policy. If they don’t, disciplinary measures are utilised, and were in the case of Richard Tol,” the ESRI spokeswoman said.

Tol was also critical that websites such as Twitter and Facebook were blocked for staff by the ESRI, reflecting an attitude toward technology more suited to the 1990s.

Tol’s statements about xenophobia and nepotism are the most controversial.

He alleges that within the ESRI, those from Ireland were in someway treated above those from foreign countries, which impacted on people’s career prospects.

He said: “There was a hierarchy within there. It was native Irish first, then English, then European, then others. This impacted on how fast you got promoted.”

The ESRI has strongly refuted any suggestion of favouritism, saying it has staff from many nationalities currently employed there. It stated it has fully developed human resources policies and such a scenario just simply couldn’t occur.

Tol went further, alleging that racist complaints made by staff toward colleagues were “ignored” by the director and by the council of the ESRI.

“Some people made racist remarks toward their colleagues. Complaints about racism and such racist remarks were ignored by management and even the council of the ESRI. It shouldn’t happen. It wasn’t racism, say white versus black, but it was racist comments directed at colleagues. It is totally unacceptable. Just because it is more common in Ireland doesn’t make it right,” he said.

“With regard to Professor Tol’s comments on xenophobia and racism, similar allegations were made in the recent past by Professor Tol when they were fully investigated and found to be groundless,” an ESRI spokeswoman said.

She said the ESRI had an employment equality policy and a code of business conduct for employees in numerous areas, including racism. These policies are brought to the attention of all members of staff. Complaints are dealt with under the grievance policy and procedure agreed between management and staff.

On his allegation of nepotism, Tol said this related to the hiring of “friends or allies” by powerful people within the organisation, irrespective of their abilities.

“Some of the more powerful people seem to have the right to appoint their friends to positions. It was easy to spot when you looked at the publication records, who the more productive ones are.”

In response, the ESRI said: “There is no basis for his comments on nepotism. All new appointments at the ESRI are made on the basis of public advertisement. The ESRI uses fully open and transparent procedures for appointments and promotion of research staff to ensure that these are made on merit. Interview boards always include an outside expert to ensure the independence and transparency of the process. The recommendations of the interview board must be approved by the ESRI council.”

Opinion within Irish academia about Richard Tol’s departure to the University of Sussex is mixed, with some, like Colm McCarthy of this newspaper and UCD, describing him as a “big loss to ESRI”.

He wrote: “Best of luck Richard”.

Others were less kind. Stephen Kinsella, an economist at the University of Limerick who moderated a discussion on the influential Irisheconomy.ie website, said the opinions expressed were “very polarised.”

“Richard Tol had the ability to be dismissive and condescending of other people’s work, especially in the area of environmental economics,” wrote a contributor named Mr Rudgelift.

“Richard seems to have annoyed some and said some extreme things and I had to delete some of the more personal attacks on him. But from my point of view, I always regret the loss of such a contrarian voice,” added Kinsella.

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Fuel Poverty-Paddy Healy Replies to Minister Rabitte

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Below is an unedited version of my letter published in Irish Times to-day Dec 28
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Dear Editor,
Minister Rabitte (Irish Times letters Dec 27) seeks to contradict the piece by Fintan O’Toole on fuel poverty (Irish Times December 20)
The Labour- Fine Gael government has introduced two cuts in fuel allowances since coming to power. From September, the smokeless fuel allowance was abolished and the annual allowance of free units was reduced from 2400 to 1800. In Budget 2012, the heating period was reduced by 6 weeks. Fuel allowance is a means tested payment. Only the poor are entitled to this benefit.
The piece of research to which Minister Rabitte and Fintan O’Toole refer is“Fuel Poverty, Older People and Cold Weather: An all-island analysis”, (at http://www.publichealth.ie). It found that the excess winter death rate in the Republic for the winter of 2006/7 was 1,281. Of these, 1,216 were aged over-65. The majority died of cardiovascular and respiratory illness – cold-related conditions. The fuel allowance in the year in question was only fractionally less than that now available and fuel prices are now much higher.
During the new year, 2012, the hundredth anniversary of the proposal by Connolly and Larkin to the Irish TUC meeting in Clonmel that a Labour Party should be founded will occur. It is scarcely credible that a party which claims Connolly as founder should be cutting fuel allowances to the poor. This is all the more so as the Labour Party, just over a year ago when in opposition, introduced a private members motion in Dáil Éireann (October 12, 2010) calling on the government to increase fuel allowances!
Fintan O’Toole was right to refer to refer to “the unacceptable reality that current policies are making Ireland a cold house for basic decency.”
Yours sincerely,
Paddy Healy

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F O’Toole on Minister Rabitte and Fuel Poverty

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

How Low can they GO?
In the recent Budget the period for which the poor and the old receive free gas and electricity units was reduced by six weeks. During the warmer summer months, Minister for “Social Protection”, Joan Burton(LabourParty Deputy Leader) announced cuts to the home benefits package for pensioners and social welfare beneficiaries. The allocations of electricity units and gas units so important for home heating were reduced by between 20% and 25% and the smokeless fuel allowance payable in Dublin was abolished. These are means tested payments which means that they are only paid to people at risk. AGE ACTION IRELAND has stated “Research on fuel poverty and older people by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the Institute of Public Health shows that during the winter of 2006/7 there were 1,281 excess winter deaths*. Of these, the vast majority were older people (1,216 were aged over-65).
The piece of research referred to by Age Action was publicly launched last week by Minister Rabitte (Labour Party) In Irish Times 20/12/2011, columnist Fintan O’Toole analyses Minister Rabitte’s launching address-Paddy Healy
RABITTE OUT IN THE COLD ON ELDERLY FUEL CUTS
Irish Times Tue, Dec 20, 2011
Pat Rabbitte is wrong that the fuel crisis is not as bad as reported. In fact, it is likely to be much worse, writes FINTAN O’TOOLE
OSCAR WILDE said he could resist everything except temptation. We, his compatriots, can imagine everything except reality. Collectively, we find it hard to believe what we see around us.
One of the things that’s easiest to spot in public spaces is old people sheltering from the cold. You see them in Ikea, sitting in the restaurant half the day over cheap cups of tea. You see them in shopping centres, where benches are being removed, not to stop teenagers from congregating, but to prevent the clusters of elderly heat-seekers. You see them in public libraries. You even see them on trains, riding up and down the lines with their free travel passes. And these, of course, are the luckier ones, the ones who are mobile and healthy enough to be able to get out of the house. But seeing is not believing.
Last week, there was a strange vignette of official incredulity. Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte launched a report by the Institute of Public Health on fuel poverty among the elderly. It is a very serious, scholarly piece of work, conducted on an all-island basis by a team of researchers from the Republic, Northern Ireland and Britain, led by Prof Patrick Goodman of Dublin Institute of Technology.
One of its findings is that 51.1 per cent of older people surveyed said they “went without necessities such as food and clothing in order to pay for heat over the winter period”.
This is not a comfortable finding for a Minister in the week after a budget that has cut the fuel allowance period by six weeks. How did Pat Rabbitte deal with it? By claiming it did not exist. According to The Irish Times report of the launch, “he said the claim that half of older people were forgoing essentials to heat their home had been published in a press release but was not in the report. He added that no politician or social worker would believe that it was true.”
In fact, the finding appears twice in the report: on page 12 and on page 60. When this was pointed out to the Minister, he stood by his position that it could not be so, pointing out that the survey was “not a representative sample of older people”.
This is true, but probably not in the sense that Rabbitte meant. No one claims the survey is representative, in the sense that, for example, an opinion poll using weighted demographical sampling might be. Its aim is somewhat different: not to tick boxes, but to get a good sense of the actual experience of older people during last winter.
The sampling method, using bodies such as Age Action, Energy Action, the Rural Transport Network and Dublin City Council’s sheltered housing liaison officers to distribute the surveys, probably does distort the results somewhat. But – and here’s the real point – it distorts them by understating the problem. People who are isolated from networks and services were excluded. People who have problems with literacy or blindness couldn’t complete the written survey. Such people are more, not less, likely to suffer from deprivation.
There is a further factor at work: the “mustn’t grumble” ethic of the elderly. Older people don’t like to complain. In the same survey, 90 per cent of the respondents listed their health status as fair to very good, even though 75 per cent had a long-term illness. They are an almost comically stoical bunch.
One respondent with both Parkinson’s disease and arthritis gave her health status as “good” and explained that “as long as I am mobile and above ground I tend not to panic or bitch”.
How probable is it that these same people are wildly exaggerating when they say they sacrifice food or clothing for heat?
And yet, the official view from the Minister is that it simply could not be true that anything like half of older people are doing without other necessities in order to heat their homes. “No politician or social worker would believe that it was true.”
That no politician, moving from heated offices to heated cars, would believe it is understandable. But I’m not sure the incredulity would extend to anyone who works with Age Action, Friends of the Elderly, St Vincent de Paul or social services. The only sense in which it is not “true” is that its reality is impermissibly awkward.
This vignette is eloquent in its own way as an example of the cognitive dissonance of officialdom. Cognitive dissonance is the condition that affects people when their belief system comes into conflict with reality. They close the gap, not by altering their belief systems, but by redefining reality.
In this case, Pat Rabbitte’s belief system (social justice) is in radical conflict with most of what he’s doing in Government. So he’s redefining reality: it is simply not possible that the Government is cutting fuel allowances for people who are already suffering deprivation in order to stay warm.
Otherwise, he would have to face the unacceptable reality that current policies are making Ireland a cold house for basic decency.
© 2011 The Irish Times

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ULA Proposal to Tax the Assets and Incomes of the Super-Rich

December 2, 2011 Leave a comment

As the Richer get Richer 17 Billion Must be Taken from Super-Rich to Avoid Austerity!
A statement from the Central Statistics Office on Wednesday last showed that the wealthiest top 20% had 5.5 times more income than the poorest 20% in 2010 and this has grown from 4.3 times in 2009. Net Financial Assets(shares etc) which are mainly the preserve of the rich have increase by 45 billion since 2008 and are now above pre-crash (2007) levels. These are facts issued by the state. The rich are,in fact,getting richer as the poor get poorer! ULA is demanding that, in the Budget, 10 billion be taken from the Assets of the top 5% of wealth holders, 5 billion be taken from the incomes of the top 5% of income earners and that measures be introduced to take 2 billion off tax exiles.
This will avoid further cuts and extra taxes on low and middle income people and can be used to reverse the imposition of the Universal Social Charge and cuts in social welfare, health and education and to allow for an ambitious state job creation programme
Explanatory Document on Taxation
10 Billion in Wealth Tax on the Top 5% of Wealth Holders, 5 Billion in Income Tax from Top 5% of Incomes, 2 Billion from Tax Exiles

Personal Assets Tax
There is currently no annually recurring tax on wealth or assets in Ireland. Such a tax was imposed by Minister for Finance Ritchie Ryan during the 1973-1977 Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Government. It was subsequently abolished by the succeeding Fianna Fail Government. Assets taxes still exist in a number of countries including France, Norway, Switzerland and in a number of states of the USA. Many were abolished in other countries under the influence of neo-liberal Thatcher-Reagan economic ideology which has brought the world to the current economic crisis.
Recent statistics from the CSO show that in 2010 the financial assets of Irish people (not businesses) were as follows:
CSO Nov 2011 Personal Financial Assets (millions)
(Financial wealth below is made up of cash, shares, pension and insurance funds (net equity) and business assets/liabilities of self-employed/sole traders. Land, housing and non-financial personal property (e.g. yachts, art, etc.) are not included. Gross financial wealth refers to total financial assets; Net financial wealth refers to gross financial wealth minus liabilities -almost all liabilities refer to loans-CSO). (loans include mortgage loans and credit card debt-PH)

Total Financial Assets Total Financial liabilities Net Financial Assets

2007 310,711 199,036 111,675
2008 281,650 209,774 71,876
2009 304,885 206,620 98,264
2010 311,372 194,219 117,153

These figures show that net personal financial assets of have increased by 45 billion since the low point of 2008. Total and net financial assets are now above 2007 level, that is before the crash. The rich are Getting Richer while the Poor are Getting Poorer http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/economy/2010/isanonfinfin2010.pdf

The net figure underestimates the assets of the wealthy as a far higher proportion of the liabilities including mortgage and credit card debt are held by those with no asset other than the principal private residence which is not included in the gross figure.

Recently (Nov 2011) Credit Suisse, the Swiss finance house, has published an analysis of wealth distribution in Ireland.
It shows that the top 1% of the Irish population hold 28.1% of all wealth and the top 5% hold 46.85 of all wealth.
Credit Suisse estimates that financial assets make up 47 percent of total assets (Table 2-4 on page 71 in Credit Suisse Global Assets Report). This means that there is €311 billion in financial assets and €351 billion in non-financial assets for a total of €662 billion (using latest CSO data). After financial liabilities of €194 billion, total net wealth is €468 billion.
As 28.1% of net wealth is held by the top 1%, they hold 131.5 billion of total net wealth.
As 46.85% of net wealth is held by the top 5%, they hold 219.3 billion of total net wealth
These are a significant underestimations as total liabilities of households which have been deducted lean proportionally most heavily on the less wealthy households.
The Revenue Commissioners have no data on the assets of specific individuals as assets tax was abolished over 30 years ago. Such a register should be established by law immediately so that there is complete transparency in relation to the ownership of wealth. The overall data above was deduced by the Central Statistics Office from other data.
ULA has set a target of collecting 10 billion per year in assets tax from the top 5% until the fiscal deficit is removed and 5 billion annually thereafter.
As these assets are not contingent on receipt of income or income changes, ULA proposes that the deadline for payment be March 1, 2012. This would facilitate early implementation of our job creation programme
The 10 billion in revenue from assets tax is available for purposes such as job creation, elimination of USC, restoration of cuts in welfare etc
It is a matter for government which has Department of Finance , Revenue Commissioners, Central Statistics Office etc at its disposal to devise legislation to reach the target revenue of 10 billion from the top 5 % and that, in particular that the homes , farms and pension funds of those outside the top 5% be exempt.
The measure proposed is a tax on personal assets only not on the assets of businesses
If the target revenue of 10 Billion is not reached by March 1, further measures should be introduced.

Income Tax
There was an increase in income inequality between 2009 and 2010 as shown by the quintile share ratio. The ratio showed that the average income of those in the highest income quintile was 5.5 times that of those in the lowest income quintile. The ratio was 4.3 one year earlier. CSO Press Release Nov 30,2011
There can be little doubt that the imposition of an assets tax would increase the yield from income tax. The contrast between large assets and low declared incomes in the non-PAYE sector would become clear.
The most recently published official statistics are for 2009
The top 5% of earners had a total income of 18 billion Euro in 2009 (22.6% of all income) and paid only 4.9 billion in income tax. If tax reliefs and capital allowances claimed are taken into account, their Gross Income, which is their actual income, is 19.8 billion. (Revenue Commissioners, Statistical Report, Table ISD1)
Deductions from that table, show the top 5% of units have 24% of all income and pay 46% of all income tax. Notwithstanding right wing propaganda, this is to be expected as they have a totally disproportionate share of discretionary income. The imposition of the USC and increased taxation of the lower paid will have significantly reduced the 46% figure in 2010. They only paid 25% of their own total income in tax in 2009
Tax reliefs which proportionally favour the rich are very high in Ireland at 20.2% of total tax revenue as against 8.5% in Germany, 5.1% in the Netherlands (OECD, Commission on Taxation)
Official figures show that those individuals as opposed to couples in receipt of incomes over 100,000 Euro only paid 31.4% of all income tax in 2008 (Irish Times Com Keena 20/3/2009). Figures for 2009 indicate little change in this regard.
Due to heavy impositions on those in receipt of low incomes in more recent budgets this percentage has probably decreased and 10,677 units (0.5% of earners) earned 6.01billion in 2009 or 7.33%% of all income. They paid c (Revenue Commissioners Statistical Report 2010) These very rich earned on average 563,000 Euro each. There is no significant change expected to these figures expected in 2010. It can reasonably be assumed that such people avail of considerable tax breaks and have the advice of tax experts. This 0.5% of earners paid 1.783 billion in income tax in 2009 leaving them with an “after-tax” income of 4.27 billion or 400,000Euro each.
ULA proposes that the minimum effective tax rate on this group be adjusted to yield an additional 2.5 billion to the exchequer leaving them with after-tax income of 1.77 billion or 166,000 Euro each.
The next 0.5% of income recipients(9,933) just below the top group had a gross income of c. 2.3 billion and paid c. 608 million in tax. ULA proposes to take a further 0.5 billion off this group leaving them with 1.2 billion Euro or 121,000Euro each in after tax income
The ULA target is to generate 3 billion Euro from the top 1% of income earners.
Because of massive tax reliefs enjoyed by high earners the use of minimum effective tax rates is a sure means of extracting additional tax from high earners.
This would require a scale of minimum effective tax rates on all income ramping upwards from the current level of 30% as incomes exceed thresholds of 100,000, 150,000, 200,000,250,000 etc. The minimum effective rates may have to be as high as respectively 35%, 40%, 45% , 50% and 60% for those earning above 300,000. The current minimum effective tax rate only applies to those with income of over 125,000 Euro claiming tax relief in excess of 80,000 Euro! This restriction should be abolished.
There must be no increase in the effective tax rates of those with gross incomes below 100,000 Euro
The total increase in revenue due to the preceding measures is 13 billion
Increased Taxation of Very High Incomes
High incomes are very lightly taxed in Ireland and the burden of income taxation on low and middle incomes was hugely increased by the imposition of the Universal Social Charge and by reduction of personal tax credits and thresholds.
There are approximately 88,500 income recipients (4.1% of taxpayers) with incomes between 100,000 and 200,00 euro and these are outside the top 1% of income recipients discussed above. They have a total income of 11.6 billion and paid 2.57 billion in tax in 2009. ULA proposes to increase the income tax yield from this group by 2 billion, through a combination of minimum effective tax rates on all income and higher marginal tax rates on income above 100,000Euro, leaving them with 7 Billion Euro, an average 79,600 Euro each in after tax income . While retaining this revenue target, adjustments of taxation will be necessary within this group in order not to penalise tax payers with an adult dependent or couples who are jointly assessed for tax.
The deployment of minimum effective tax rates is designed to combat the loss of revenue due to tax reliefs enjoyed by the rich. Relief on pension contributions to provide pensions capped at 50,000 per annum per adult should be continued.

The cumulative revenue total raised by the above measures is now 15 billion Euro

Tax Exiles
The Domicile Levy introduced in Budget 2011 to address the problem of tax exiles has generated a paltry 1.5 million in revenue and is clearly totally inadequate.
It is reasonable to expect that citizens of Ireland who have income generated in Ireland and/or assets held in Ireland should pay tax to the Irish state. The United States expects its citizens resident abroad to pay US income tax when their earnings abroad exceed a certain threshold. Failure to do so attracts public disapproval. Irish tax exiles, on the other hand, are fawned on by politicians. Denis O’Brien was invited by Eamonn Gilmore to the Farmleigh conference at the behest of Fine Gael. Michael Smurfit was appointed honorary consul to Monaco by Charles Haughey and furnished with a diplomatic passport. The Labour Party leader is continuing Mr Smurfit in office.
The ULA proposes that the principles underlying US practice be applied to wealthy individuals living abroad.
We call on the Government to introduce measures in Budget 2012 to require by Law that Irish citizens resident abroad for tax purposes pay to the Irish exchequer annual amounts of tax as follows:
1 Assets Tax: An assets tax of 10% on net global personal assets in excess of 2 million Euro less the assets tax paid to the state in which the Irish citizen is resident.
2 Income Tax: A minimum effective income tax rate of 50% on annual global income in excess of 200,000 Euro, less the income tax paid to the state in which the Irish citizen is resident.
3Current Domicile Levy of €200,000 introduced in Budget 2010 to be increased to 500,000Euro per year. This levy should apply to all Irish-domiciled individuals who are Irish citizens to ensure that wealthy Irish domiciled individuals make a contribution to the State during these times of economic and fiscal difficulty. The Levy will apply to wealthy Irish-domiciled individuals with Irish located capital greater than €2 million, worldwide income in excess of €1million and an Irish income tax liability less than €500,000. Persons liable to the Levy will have to pay it regardless of where they live or where they are tax resident.

It is impossible to predict the revenue which would be generated by the above measures. However the deadline for paying the assets tax, domicile levy and preliminary income tax should be set at March 1, 2011. If the income generated falls below a projected 2 billion for the year as a whole, further changes should be made to remedy the short fall
Other measures are also open to the Minister in his budget such as drastically reducing the number of days the “exile” can stay in Ireland while retaining residence abroad for tax purposes.
ULA has set a minimum initial target of 2 billion Euro in revenue from the above 3 measures

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Minister Burton Misleads to Cut Welfare

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

“Now that the recession has bitten hard and deep we have a scale of expenditure that is completely out of step with our ability to fund it. We do not have the means or revenue as a country to support our level of spending.”Burton Seanad, Nov 17
This is completely wrong. The truth is that the government has decided that the poor and middle income earners will bear the brunt of the fiscal adjustment (3.8m) . Net Financial assets(shares etc) of irish households increased by 45 billion over the last two years as private sector investment fell by 30 billion. The government should take 10 billion of the 45 billion in a wealth tax instead of spending cuts. The spending cuts will continue to destroy jobs (315,000 since 2007 and 3000 net fulltime jobs in the first 3 months of this government)
Dr Nat O’Connor, Director of TASC, the progressive research group last Thursday told a conference that the “Troika” had informed him that if money could be raised in alternative ways, they would have no problem with that.
So cuts in welfare are purely a Labour/Fine Gael decision
EU Comparison
Contrary to claims that welfare in Ireland is high and a ‘disincentive’ to work, welfare payments in Ireland are among the lowest in the original EU fifteen states. A report by the EAPN from Sept 2009, based on figures for 2006 comparing social protection spending in the EU 15, found that while there was an average spend of 27% of GDP, Ireland came 13t out of 15 with 18.2%.

The net replacement rate, welfare compared to previous income was only 34.5% in Ireland, again the lowest in the EU 15. Social protection in Ireland is even below the average of the EU 27 which contains many countries much poorer tan Ireland

It is appalling that social welfare should top the cuts league according to the leaked German draft.
GOVERNMENT POLICY
“The (leaked) EU documents appear to suggest that the savings will be achieved by welfare fraud elimination, cuts to other entitlements and a reduction in the number of people eligible for benefit payments.” (Journal.ie)
Earlier this month the Government stated its intentions:

They(GOV) stress that instead of “pursuing across-the-board reductions in primary social welfare rates”, the Government will take a “selective approach” to “reforming entitlements”, and state:
“The Department of Social Protection will build on their recent studies on working age payments, child income support and disability allowance with a view to producing, after consultation with stakeholders, a comprehensive programme of reforms that can help better target social support to those on lower incomes, and ensure that work pays for welfare recipients.” (Jounal.ie)
Already people with perfectly legitimate welfare claims are being cut off like flies through use of new arbitrary criteria and in a savage Scrooge operation heating support has being reduced to the poor and the old this Christmas leading to more unnecessary deaths this winter.
Now Burton wants to cut Child Benefit even to the needy. Brnardos has described this measure as “crossing moral boundaries”
How Low can she Go?
Public Sector
It may not be widely known that the proposed transfer of illness benefit payment to employers includes public sector employers and state companies- This means that these cuts will end up in hospital wards, schools and local authority services and on bin charges, electricity and gas bills.
Private Sector
This reduction in demand by people who spend all their money every week will lead to further job destruction by government as shops and small businesses continue to close
I would be not as neutral or “agnostic” as David Begg on the transfer of the first four weeks of sickness benefit to employers. There are serious concerns arising from Burtons Seanad Speech on Thursday night.
Small Businesses
Firstly, many businesses including small shops, cafes and hairdressers have less than ten employees. To trade they must replace sick employees. Now they must pay benefit to the sick employee as well. Many are hanging on by their finger nails and will close, adding to the dole queues.
Multi-Nationals
In relation to large profit-making Irish and multinational companies, my concern is not for such companies but for their employees. Trade unions are not permitted in these companies. Burton said in the Seanad that the transfer of the first 4 weeks sick leave to employers would enable employers to “manage absenteeism”. Does this mean that a sick cert from an employee’s GP will no longer guarantee payment of sickness benefit.?
Will people who have not fully recovered be forced to go back to work too soon?
There are also predatory employers in some parts of the public sector with whom the health of employees would not be safe.
I have no confidence that a Minister who has cut winter fuel allowances to the old will give first priority to the health of employees in the new legislation she will introduce to implement the changes.
Paddy Healy 087-4183732 paddy.healy@eircom.net
NOV 18 2011

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Labour Reduces Free Heat Units to Poor this winter

October 30, 2011 2 comments

How Low can they GO?
During the warmer summer months, Minister for “Social Protection”, Joan Burton(LabourParty Deputy Leader) announced cuts to the home benefits package for pensioners and social welfare beneficiaries. The allocations of electricity units and gas units so important for home heating were reduced by between 20% and 25%. AGE ACTION IRELAND has stated “Research on fuel poverty and older people by the Dublin Institute of Technology and the Institute of Public Health — funded by CARDI and due to be published in the coming weeks — shows that during the winter of 2006/7 there were 1,281 excess winter deaths*. Of these, the vast majority were older people (1,216 were aged over-65). How many preventable deaths will take place this winter?
The latest figures from CSO show that the nett financial assets of Irish households increased by 27 billion euro in 2009 and gross financial assets have increased by a further 7 billion in 2010. Not a penny in tax on these assets has been imposed by the Labour government.
Homeless charities say demand for their services has increased by up to 40% in the current year. Yet HSE has just announced cuts to services to the homeless. Kathleen Lynch (Labour) is Minister for State at the Department of Health and children.
Please sign the Age Action Petition here http://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/FOyR76aN2J6UCXnG2
Paddy Healy 086-4183732

FROM AGE ACTION IRELAND
Sign petition to help protect vulnerable older people this winter
Wed, 26/10/2011 – 15:23
Age Action is urging the Government to reverse cuts to the free gas and electricity units for pensioners, amid growing concern at the severe hardship which the cuts will have for the most vulnerable of older people this winter.
Read Full Statement http://www.ageaction.ie/sign-petition-help-protect-vulnerable-older-people-winter
How Low Can They Go?
Hundreds of older people die each winter in Ireland because they cannot afford to keep themselves warm. Lives could be saved if the Government reversed its decision to cut their electricity and gas units.

I call on the Government to reverse the cuts to the free gas/electricity units available under the Household Benefits Package, given the increased hardship it will cause for older people on low incomes.
Click on Link Below to sign the petition

http://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/FOyR76aN2J6UCXnG2

Homeless services to be cut by 10%
CARL O’BRIEN
Irish Times Thu, Oct 27, 2011
HEALTH AUTHORITIES are cutting funding for homeless services in parts of the capital by up to 10 per cent over the coming winter months, despite growing pressure on services.
Service providers say the cuts will impact heavily on their ability to provide shelter and support to homeless people at a time when they are under strain.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) – one of the main funders of homeless services – told providers last week it is cutting between 5 per cent and 10 per cent of grants which were due to be paid between October and December of this year.
However, homeless charities say they have recorded increases in demand for services of between 20 and 40 per cent over the past year. Services say they are continuing to give out sleeping bags at night-time due to ongoing shortages of emergency beds.
Dublin Simon’s chief executive Sam McGuinness said: “With the harsh winter already upon us and demand for homeless accommodation stretching all service providers to the limit, it is unacceptable for the most vulnerable and destitute to suffer further HSE year-end panic cuts because of their spending excesses.”
Focus Ireland’s chief executive Joyce Loughnan said if deeper cuts were to be made at this late stage in the year, it would hit its ability to provide “vital lifeline services” to homeless people.
The funding cuts were confirmed this week by the Dublin Region Homeless Executive – a partnership run by the city’s four local authorities – which is in charge of organising homeless services in the capital.
The two main areas affected are Dublin south-west – which includes Tallaght, Clondalkin and Kildare – and Dublin south-central, which includes much of the inner city.
These areas are due to receive cuts of between 5 per cent and 10 per cent respectively, on top of cuts of 5 per cent earlier this year.
In a letter to one service provider dated October 13th, the HSE said: “It is recognised that maintaining services will require significant levels of change, flexibility and creativity.
“Therefore, you will need to make the savings to remain within the budget through value-for-money initiatives and other administrative efficiencies in order to achieve a break-even financial position by year’s end.”
In a statement, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive said the overall implication and impact of the cuts had been “fully considered” by the HSE.
It added there had not been a reduction in funding from the Department of the Environment, the other main source of public funding for homeless organisations.
In the meantime, the Dublin Region Homeless Executive has been working to secure longer-term beds for dozens of people in emergency accommodation to help alleviate pressure on services.
© 2011 The Irish Times

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Labour Party and SIPTU Capitulate on Low Pay

From Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Mandate Trade Union and Unite the Union have roundly condemned the Government proposals to cut the low pay of over 200,000 employees.
The proposals will give rise to reduction of JLC rates generally, elimination of Sunday premium, and allow employers to claim inability to pay.
Thousands face pay cuts after JLC reforms are published
From Daily News Digest of Unite The Union
“The government published its proposed reforms of the JLC structure yesterday. In a move which the Minister admits will lead to a ‘lowering of hiring costs’, the number of JLC’s will be reduced from 13 to six and there will be only one rate with two additional discretionary ones. The premium for Sunday pay will be swept away to be replaced on paper with guidelines for employers, and bosses will now be able to seek derogation through a new inability to pay clause. This is terrible news for all low paid workers and those whose wages will be set with reference to them, as well as for the economy which will now have less money, less tax and little prospect of anything other than increased unemployment.—-
UIONS NOT AT ONE OVER JLC REFORMS
UNITE sees the reforms of the JLC structure as a dark day for those on low pay and for all working people. That view is broadly shared in the Irish Times analysis but not fully across the union movement.”
“The trade union Unite said last night it would not rule out industrial action in protest at the Government’s planned measures. The plan was also strongly criticised by Mandate, the union representing retail workers.” Martin Wall Irish Times, July 29
But following the surrender of the Labour Party in Cabinet, SIPTU has described the proposals as “relatively positive” on RTE Television News, July 28 and has given the government plan “a cautious welcome” (Martin Wall, Irish Times July 29).
This is a dark day for Irelands biggest union which was built by Larkin and Connolly
The trade union affiliation of the new government appointees to the board of Solas (replacing Fás) will be of considerable interest
The extent of the attack on the low-paid can be gauged from the remarks by John Douglas, General Secretary , MANDATE, on Morning Ireland, to-day, July 29
“This is devastating for 200,000 workers- following increases in gas prices, mortgages, food prices, thousands will be driven over the edge- majority are women earning no more than 9.50 an hour trying to put food on table-this is not to create jobs but to lower pay and conditions-it won’t create a single extra job. When Margaret Thatcher dismantled the wage councils in England ,it did not create one extra job-the research shows this despite the ministers claims”

Analysis
The EU-IMF deal commits the Irish Government to a “review of wage setting mechanisms”. There may have been additional secret assurances given by the previous government but the EU-IMF Deal does not specify any particular measure.
Bruton had made his proposals before the JLC system was struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds. The changes to pay rates, conditions of service and terms of reference in the proposals have nothing to do with the decision of the court. The proposals for these changes pre-date the courts decision. There are changes in procedures which are genuinely required in the light of the courts decision. In the wake of the court decision there are no legally enforceable Employment Regulation Orders (ERO) in existence in the state. The process of establishing new constitutional EROs will have to commence from scratch. This will take several months during which no legally binding EROs will exist.
If the Fine Gael/Labour Government were interested in protecting the 200,000 employees covered by the original EROs at the earliest possible date, they would have introduced the procedural measures contained in the proposals published yesterday before the Dail was adjourned for the summer one week ago or alternatively, they could have kept the Dail in session to deal with the matter.
Government “spin” to the effect that the measures were announced yesterday to protect workers in the light of the court decision is entirely false and misleading.
The way that the matter has been handled ensures that workers will remain unprotected by EROs for several months and when new EROs are produced their provisions will be far inferior for workers to the ones that have been struck down by the courts.
Job Creation?
The Minister and the employer body IBEC continually argue that pay and conditions under EROs must be reduced in order to create jobs. There is no evidence for this. Indeed, the Duffy/Walsh Report to the Minister for Enterprise, Employment and Innovation concludes inter alia : “We have concluded that lowering the basic JLC rates to the level of the minimum wage rate is unlikely to have a substantial effect on employment.” and “ we conclude that it is not accurate to suggest that the body of primary employment rights legislation currently in force adequately covers matters dealt with by EROs and REAs.” According to the OECD, Ireland suffers from some of the highest levels of low‐pay. Over 21% of full‐time employees are ‘low‐paid, compared to a Eurozone average of 14.7% and EU Commission data shows that labour costs (include wages and employers’ contributions) in the Food & Accommodation sector in Ireland are 6% below the EU-15 average.
Despite the fact that the above information has been contained in several statements by trade unions and ULA TDs , Minister Bruton was allowed to repeatedly assert that the measures would to create jobs in interviews on Drivetime and RTE News without the contrary evidence being put to him. IBEC spokespeople have also been allowed on all media to claim that 40% of restaurants do not open on Sunday “due to the Sunday premium”. Of course many restaurants have always remained closed on Sunday because their trade depends on demand from locally employed people who do not work on Sundays. Restaurant closures, limited opening hours and increased Sunday closing is due to the reduction in demand caused by increased unemployment and income reductions due to recent budgets. The IBEC claim is a gross abuse of dubious statistics based on surveys of restaurant owners. “They would say that, wouldn’t they?”
Key Measures
The Minister asserts that new JLC rates will be lower. This is because the terms of reference for the wage setting process have been changed to the disadvantage of the worker side. “These include competitiveness factors, average hourly rates set in comparable sectors in Ireland’s main trading partners as well as employment and unemployment rates” Martin Wall, Irish Times,July 29. For example, the employer side will now be able to argue that pay rates should be lowered due to the extent of unemployment. This is a classic use of unemployment by employers to drive down wages. It has no justification except capitalist greed. It will now be supported by statutory terms of reference agreed by the Labour Party.
The Minister claims that these new lower rates will not affect existing workers who are protected by the terms of their current employment contracts. The minister knows well that existing employees can be pressurised in many ways to agree to reductions in existing pay rates if these are not legally binding. That is a major reason why legally binding JLC rates exist. Employers have many ways of discriminating in favour of new cheaper workers (eg allocation of overtime, denial of promotion, assignment to easier or more pleasant job etc). In addition, a new businesses paying lower rates will be able to undermine existing businesses paying higher rates. This is also the case in relation to the new provision of allowing businesses to claim inability to pay. An employer being undermined by competitors can then pressurise employees to accept the lower legal rate or face closure and unemployment. The original JLC system was designed to prevent this “race to the bottom” in competing businesses dependent on finite demand.
The new JLCs will be precluded from setting a Sunday premium. The suggestion that the provisions of The Working Time Act is an adequate replacement to protect workers is completely false. Under that Act the employer can simply give another day off instead. This effectively means that staff can be made to work at the flat rate. Sunday premium has been simply abolished.
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The article below from Irish Independent July 27 (below) indicates that the Labour Party has agreed to Government attacks on the low-paid at the cabinet meeting held yesterday.
In a time-honoured and cowardly manner, the deal was done and announced while the Dail was not sitting and just before the ministers went on holiday. This will form a precedent for further attacks on the incomes of all employees. The 100 Euro tax on homes was also agreed at the cabinet meeting. Though net financial assets (exclusive of houses and land) increased by 27 billion Euro in 2009 and are expected to have increased by a similar amount in 2010, no tax whatever has been placed on these assets
Paddy Healy 086-4183732 paddy.healy@eircom.net
Member National Steering Committee United Left Alliance
A fuller report from Irish Independent July 28 (below) on the Labour capitulation on Low Pay is carried below.
Not alone has the Labour Party agreed to the scrapping of the Sunday premium for low paid workers, it has also agreed to allow employers to claim inability to pay and ,if successful, to pay a lesser rate for normal working days. In circumstances in which demand is being continuously removed from the economy by government, this can only lead to continuous reduction in the direction of the minimum wage and the effective collapse of the system. Compliant employers will be progressively undermined by those paying a lower rate.
The scrapping of the Sunday premium will simply add to the profits of highly successful multi-national retail chains at the expense of their employees.
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Labour Party in Clonmel by Larkin and Connolly in 1912 which will be held next year will be a in the nature of a wake.
The actions of the Labour Party are an insult to the memory of Larkin and Connolly. Larkin is rightly celebrated for his heroic battles on behalf of the low-paid. In addition, Connolly is celebrated for his heroic stand for Irish Independence and sovereignty. But the Labour Party is allowing internatonal financiers to suck the lifeblood out of Ireland and even allowing them to dictate cuts in low pay under the EU-IMF Deal. When it is considered that cuts in low pay will actually worsen the national finances by lowering the tax take, the capitulation of Gilmore on the JLC issue must be the most abject surrender of Irish sovereignty conceivable.
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Member of National Steering Committee, United Left Alliance

By Fionnan Sheahan and Lise Hand
Irish Independent Wednesday July 27 2011
Low paid workers will be entitled to slightly more than the minimum wage working on a Sunday under a new deal to replace the existing system of setting wages.
New rules governing the wages in the catering, hotels, retail, grocery, contract cleaning and some other sectors were agreed by the Government yesterday.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton is understood to have struck a deal with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore on the contentious issue of the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs).
The Government agreed yesterday to draw up new laws to reform the area after the High Court ruled the wage setting agreements were unconstitutional.
Coalition sources said the current rates of Sunday premium pay will be done away with, but employees working on a Sunday will still be entitled to slightly more than the minimum wage — just not as much as they are currently paid.
However, what has yet to be determined is how much more than the minimum wage will be paid.
After attacking Mr Bruton on his proposals to reform the area, the Labour Party was said to be keen to get the legislation in place to provide protection to workers following the High Court case. A spokesperson for the Labour Party said the legislation was agreed on by the Cabinet.
Last night Mr Bruton said: “It will be a system that will protect workers, it will be robust but will introduce the reforms so that we can exploit the opportunities for employment.”
- Fionnan Sheahan and Lise Hand
Employers can claim an ‘inability to pay’ under wage reforms
By Fionnan Sheahan and Anne-Marie Walshe
Irish Independent, Thursday July 28 2011
Employers will be allowed to claim an inability to pay the rates agreed under the wage-setting system for low-paid staff, the Irish Independent has learned.
Sunday premium pay for those covered by the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) will also be scrapped.
The controversial new rules governing the wages in the catering, hotels, retail, grocery, contract cleaning and some other sectors will be announced today.
Ahead of the publication, the Labour Party was accused last night of capitulating in an attack on the low paid.
Under the reforms to the JLCs, low-paid staff will be entitled to the same protection as other employees for working on a Sunday.
The existing Organisation of Working Time Act allows for staff to be compensated for working on Sunday through the negotiation of extra pay, an increased average wage across the week or a day off in lieu.
In reality, though, the scrapping of the Sunday premium payments will mean a pay cut for staff in those sectors who work on that day.
The number of JLC agreements is also widely expected to be reduced substantially.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton is understood to have struck a deal with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, granting some concessions from his original proposals.
After coming under attack from the Labour Party, Mr Bruton is believed to have got through the bulk of his proposals.
The minister’s hand was strengthened substantially by a High Court ruling that JLCs were unconstitutional and pressure from the IMF and EU to reform the area.
The new deal will have to be cleared with the troika lending Ireland the €85bn bailout.
The Government is also believed to have accepted the recommendation on the introduction of an inability-to-pay clause for employers.
The expert report on the area said there should be a “derogation on economic grounds” introduced, where the employer can claim it would damage the viability of the firm and cause job losses if they had to pay the rates agreed.
The United Left Alliance said the deal was done “in a time-honoured and cowardly manner”, announced while the Dail wasn’t sitting and just before ministers took holidays.
- Fionnan Sheahan and Anne-Marie Walshe

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