“Irish taxpayer is potentially being turned into a sucker thanks to Lenihan’s ‘succour'”

September 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

In terms of this morning’s news from the Minister for Finance, it is not entirely clear whether we have a decision or a proposal. We were told this morning the justification for the decision is to avert a catastrophe and the word “catastrophe” was used quite liberally. It is a big word, particularly when until recently we were told Irish banks did not have liquidity problems and there were no fundamental difficulties with their position. However, the word “catastrophe” has now been used.

Politicians on all sides have a responsibility to hold back and wait to hear the rationale for the proposal being brought forward and to debate it carefully. However, the public is entitled to have spelled out to it what momentous catastrophe would happen if this decision was not made. We are entitled to be told that and not have to guess at it. We should be told precisely what was likely to happen and the consequences of this decision not being made.

What are those consequences? I do not refer to general issues and suggestions that we should look to what is happening in the United States or that if we do not act the sky may fall in. I want more detail because the Irish people are entitled to be told the precise nature of the so-called catastrophe – that is not my word – which we are seeking to avert. We can then compare the action that is proposed with the consequences of not taking it. I support what has been said by others in regard to the level of scrutiny that is needed of the banks and financial institutions if this proposal is to be adopted.

We are a far cry from the point some months ago when the banks appeared before the Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service. This is the most momentous economic decision that has been taken in a considerable period of time. Surely an argument can at least be made for the establishment of an Oireachtas committee. Sometimes we are criticised for having too many committees, but if there was ever a need for an Oireachtas committee dedicated to a central economic question, surely it is now. There is a compelling argument for a committee to deal with banks and the banking system so that Members of the Oireachtas can be afforded opportunities on a regular basis to scrutinise the banks, understand precisely what is occurring and raise questions about the history of loose and reckless lending and the issue of executive salaries. Such a committee would also provide a forum through which Irish people can ensure that banks and financial institutions pay for this extraordinary bail-out and what I heard the Minister for Finance describe as “succour”.

I sat in my car and reached for the Kleenex tissues at one point while listening to the Minister. I know it is important not to make light of this issue but he claimed that the measures had to be taken in regard to these six Irish banks because they had nowhere else to go for succour. I had a different kind of “succour” in mind when I heard that phrase from the Minister and it is the Irish taxpayer who is potentially being turned into a sucker in this.

Meeting Wesley Students

September 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

On Tuesday 16 September I took some time out to meet with students from Wesley College in Ballinteer. I was invited by Ms. Henderson to address her CSPE class on politics and life in the Oireachtas and got a good grilling on the current economic situation!

I first told them about how parliament works and how the Seanad and Dáil pass legislation and then invited them to ask any questions they wished. Topics such as the Lisbon Treaty, the economy and the power of their vote made for a lively discussion.

I may have even encouraged a few students to enter into politics when they’re a little older…

Closing preschool education unit ‘shortsighted’ and ‘ludicrous’

September 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

The decision to close a unit, the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education, established to develop education for pre-school children is extremely short-sighted and a clear indicator of this Government’s lack of commitment to early education.

According to the department the closure of this unit and the loss of eight jobs is so the department can reconsider the structures established to support early education. If that is the case why shut down a unit staffed with experts in the field. What this decision does demonstrate is the Government’s lack of coherent childcare policy which is in stark contrast to Labour’s policy which is committed to the creation of a national system of child-centred and learning-focused preschool education.

As it stands less than one out of four of Irish children aged between three and four years old are currently in structured pre-school education. This contrasts with our European partners where at least two in every three children of that age enjoy such education. It is clear given that the Irish spend on per-school education is one of the lowest in developing countries, there is no serious consideration for pre-school education from the Government, at the very least the decision to close the unit proves this to be the case.

Education is the most important investment that we, as a nation, can ever make. Universal education is the key which unlocks the potential of every child. Pre-school education has been proven to tackle disadvantage which makes the decision to close this important unit in St Patrick’s Drumcondra all the more ludicrous. I am calling on the Government to reverse this cutback and commit properly to pre-school education.

More :: Education cutback closes pre-school unit (Irish Times)
More :: Click here to download Labour’s policy on pre-school education (PDF)

Alex on the Sunday Supplement

September 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

Last Sunday I joined the panel on Sam Smyth’s Sunday Supplement on Today FM. Also on the panel to review the week’s happenings were Ray Gordon and Sunday Independent journalist Alan Ruddock.

You can listen to the show in full by clicking here.

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