Who Wants To Live In An Economy?



From top: Claire Byrne Live; Anne-Marie McNally

Have we not learned?

It’s the society, stupid.

Anne-Marie McNally writes:

On Monday evening I took myself out to the glamorous (!) surrounds of the Claire Byrne show with our Dublin Central candidate Gary Gannon. The topic for discussion was budget and the debate took place between economist Dan O’Brien, Minister of State Simon Harris, Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD and UCC Sociologist Dr Niamh Hourigan with each panellist having the chance to open with a one minute statement.

I was struck during Minister Harris’ one minute statement by just how many times he mentioned the economy. We are ‘growing the economy’; we are ‘the fastest growing economy in Europe’; we are ‘building a thriving economy’ – all laudable statements but totally irrelevant without equal focus on society. Who wants to live in an economy? Right now the economy is rebuilding but it is very much at the expense of society.

During the debate Minister Harris spoke about how Ireland has a skills shortage – yes we do Minister and that problem will continue to worsen given that we currently have the second largest class sizes in Europe with a pupil-teacher ratio that would make your eyes water.

When we talk about the importance of the economy in attracting Foreign Direct Investment we shouldn’t forget the importance too of a well-educated and skilled workforce. Catherine Murphy TD recalls Intel sending reps to observe classes in the local primary schools of Leixlip before making the decision to locate there.

In the USA, for example, there is a very specific emphasis on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) with extra hours allocated specifically for these subjects whereas here many of our children are sitting in overcrowded classes and sitting through hours of religious education during the week – not an ideal basis for a very competitive future workforce.

And to those who argue that education should be far more rounded and include cultural pursuits to the same level as academic pursuits – yes great, but it’d be nice if parents didn’t have to hand over extortionate ‘voluntary contributions’ and registration fees to help the school heat itself never mind provide musical instruments or science lab equipment.

Then the Minister went onto the issue of health and acknowledged some of the harrowing stories coming from members of the audience’s personal experiences within the chaotic health system. Yet in the pursuit of ‘growing the economy’ and prioritising that economy, successive Governments have stood by and watched as the trolleys grew and the sickness at the heart of our health system turned terminal.

Next week Minister Harris, as the consigliere for Minister Noonan, will go forth and tell us that we should jump for joy because ”wuhoo..look, there’s an extra tenner in your wage packet, and sure throw us a number 1 vote by way of saying thanks.” Basically the same thing that has happened for years – vote, elect, bargain, boom, buy votes, bust, election again. And round and round we go.

We can’t keep talking about having a vibrant economy without matching that level of priority to building a vibrant society. For that to happen significant investment is needed – investment that will rebuild our public services with solidarity and longevity in mind. If we accept that the fiscal space available is €1.5billion then we have got to be looking at investing the vast majority of that into our public services.

The surest way to put real money back into people’s pockets is not with a random measly tax cut that will result in an extra 5 or 10 quid a fortnight, but rather to reduce the cost of living for all citizens.

Investment in a decent childcare model, investment in our education & health systems, a decent transport system, a housing strategy – all of these require spending now but it is spending that will ensure that people in all sections of society are not shovelling out ‘disposable’ income on vital services that are running to standstill.

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

38 thoughts on “Who Wants To Live In An Economy?

  1. Mr. T.

    Sneering FGers like Harris don’t care about society because they only engage with their own narrow circle of friends and associates. So if their policy of punishing the vulnerable in society causes social decay, it will be in areas of cities and towns where Harris and his merry posse don’t venture.

    They are want inequality where the poorest suffer most and the wealthiest make even more money off their backs.

    They are anti-social scum.

  2. ollie

    2 points: It’s a waste of time critiquing what Simon Harris says. A BA in Journalism and he’s a TD, that’s what’s wrong with this government.

    Secondly, funding for schools is less for voluntary schools than for community schools. The voluntary contribution makes up the shortfall.

    1. Steve

      A bit snotty no?? Do you need a phd from the Kennedy school in Harvard to be a TD? Play the ball, not the man

      1. ahjayzis

        Valid point – it’s irritating to be lectured by someone who’s probably never paid a gas bill before entering parliament. It’s not an age thing either, Enda spent like 4 years of his life working a real job, and that was as a teacher, a profession massively overrepresented in public life.

        It’s not playing the man, it’s highlighting the dearth of real-life experience of pretty much everyone in the executive.

        1. curmudgeon

          Horse sh**, this is a democracy I get to vote in who I think best. And that is going to go on some ones character more so than any academic or professional qualification. Do you really think journalists are so I’ll suited for public office? Maybe you’d like more “business men” because they’ve done so well for themselves and are therefore more “respectable”.

          1. scottser

            i don’t want to alarm anyone here, but in my place of work once i noticed an elected representative had a leaving cert economics book in her bag. yes, i know i shouldn’t jump to conclusions but by and large our elected representatives have no qualification to hold office outside of their own vested interest. that does not make for a functioning democracy but it’s great for the oligarchs.

      2. ollie

        Play the ball not the man? What exactly does that mean?

        Harris is totally unqualified for the role he has in government, a typical FG goon.

  3. ollie

    Simon Harris is a qualified journalist (It must be an easy qualification to get), He’s also a junior minister.
    He’s a Junior Minister for one reason only; he was the 3rd FG TD to be elected in his constituency therefore he gets a junior ministerial post to boost his profile.
    That’s why we get people like Harris in power.

  4. Kolmo

    FG just care about the balance sheet – not how figures are arrived at and it’s corrosive affect on society outside of the insulated insider class.
    Foreign Direct Investment is given far too much reverence too, they are only here because they are subsidised by the Tax Payer to the tune of Billions, the worker schlubs pay the taxes.

    1. Neilo

      Let’s close the Ireland Inc. premises to potential employers attracted by FDI incentives: we don’t want their filthy, sordid jobs when our bounteous natural resources will meet all our needs. As a prospective PIRA/Sinn Féin TD said to me during the 2007 hustings: ‘our graduates will find jobs in fish processing’. Always plenty of money to be made in Big Fish, quotas be damned.

      1. Kolmo

        Nope. Point missed on purpose in a flat-footed attempt at sarcastic wit, I hope.

        I said FDI is revered far too much and relied on at the expense of indigenous entrepreneurship, nothing wrong with FDI at all as long as it is not the only show in town.

          1. Neilo

            Not arguing with you about indigenous entrepreneurship – would welcome much more! Yeah, I’m not really one for point-keeping or scoring but I always thought my sarcasm was of a more fleet-footed variety.

          2. Neilo

            In fairness, I never miss an opportunity to belittle PIRA/Sinn Fein/Paedophile Information Exchange either.

  5. J

    If the standards of education are to improve, a complete overhaul of the system is required. It is not enough to suggest that the problem lies solely with large classroom sizes or “hours” spent in the pursuit of religious studies (a rather weak and annoyingly populist argument). The focus should be on the standard of teaching and the curriculum. As BS Min for Ed I would raise the professional standards for teachers and ensure that it garners the respect that it deserves .Only then will you attract the very brightest into the profession.

    1. The Real Jane

      I think it’s a bit redundant to attract the brightest into teaching. Being the brightest indicates almost nothing about your ability to teach, to impart knowledge, garner respect, help with learning self respect or application.

      The teachers we have are bright enough, I think, already. We need people with a talent for interpersonal communication who like kids, enjoy teaching and love their subject.

      And the rest of us need to accept that having been to school does not make you on a par with the teacher and we’re not living our childhoods through our children again.

      1. ollie

        “The teachers we have are bright enough, I think, already.”
        Myth busted!
        The evidence?

        Enda Kenny
        Niall Collins
        Joan Burton
        Aodhan O Riordain
        Mary Mitchell O’Connor
        Jim Daly.

  6. The Real Jane

    I once heard Simon Harris use the phrase “magic money tree”, beloved of all right wing nuts on the Internet. He automatically lost my vote. Who wants to be governed by hard of thinking face bookers?

  7. ahjayzis

    Good article.

    We need to tackle the right-wing idea that ‘the citizen will spend the 10 euro tax cut better than the government ever could” – it’s just not true, giving everyone an extra tenner in child benefit won’t enable them to access reasonably priced high quality childcare – but combine that tenner from everyone and voila, you have a system and that taxpayer has MORE than a tenner extra in her pocket.

    1. donal

      well said, wholeheartedly agree.
      €1.5 billion euro in one year on childcare would surely cover the total cost for all parents of young children, the knock-on effect of that in more time to do productive work and less time being stressed would surely be a great boon for the economy that this society co-exists with

        1. Seriously

          There was talk of means testing it a couple of years ago but they chickened out because:

          a) they were afraid of any backlash
          b) it would actually cost too much in the short term to introduce testing and even though it would save a fortune in the long run, governments here only like to think of cost in terms of election cycles…

    2. Neilo

      I think more needs to be done at the tax credit side as well, claw a little back. I don’t really know. I’m not a parent, I just play one on TV.

  8. Thomas

    I am curious as to why these constant “speeches” from a candidate seeking election in my constituency keep getting uploaded here?This isn’t a platform for people to try and get themselves elected???

    1. ahjayzis

      Why not?
      It’s a website not the state broadcaster, if broadsheet wants to throw it’s lot in with the SocDems it’s their business.

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