The Budget

 While there is no doubt that many people, some indeed with good reason, are very upset about the painful austerity measures that were introduced in the recent budget but in all fair play however it must be stated that in the overall context it was not too bad. The Taoiseach in his pre-budget speech had of course warned the people of the State about stressful times ahead and the need that we as a people must get our financial priorities right before there can be any hope of a national recovery we must all accept however reluctantly that without  there can be no restriction. To give credit where it is due the Government have stopped short of any cutbacks on basic pensions for the elderly or social welfare payments for the unemployed and by all accounts they have back-tracked since the original budget announcements of any disability cutbacks for the unfortunate people who are depending on this allowance . So while naturally some of the cutbacks will cause hardship in some respects such as the fuel allowance for elderly people particularly those living in towns and cities, it is somewhat different in rural areas where many people have a turf supply (so far anyway) from their own bogs.  In my own case they do not give me a fuel allowance because of my extra income from my English pension. The fact also that some of the other benefits for retired people were left untouched such as medical cards, television licence, electricity and telephone allowances as well as the free travel which is also very important to many people. All or any of these benefits could have been targeted and the fact that these benefits were for the most part left as they were is something for which the Government certainly deserve credit.  On the other hand, on the negative side however such as the VAT increase, motor fuel tax, property tax and indeed many other hidden charges of which we are not yet aware of are in due course going to affect us all.  But some sections of the population will feel the squeeze more than others, such as the reduction of Children’s Allowance for a family with a third child or more. Actually it should have been the other way around. It is only common sense for anybody to realize that a family with three or more children are less well off than a family with two.  Any way one looks at it they have much more expense and the fact that their allowances are cut for the extra children was a very short sighted measure. One wonders if this is all a part of the so called liberal agenda so beloved by some sections of the Labour Party in order to discourage families from having extra children.  Ordinary people like ourselves can never know the real motive behind this measure. Another section of the population who are going to be badly hit are those with big mortgages who have lost their jobs and who are dependent on social welfare.  These unfortunate people are now the new poor and need all the help they can get if they are to survive. Sadly many of them are now finding out that the prospects of getting employment here again are very slim and because of this some of the more energetic and ambitious among them are emigrating to foreign countries where they are able to find suitable and well paid employment which in the long term is most likely to benefit their families as well as themselves. It is a very sad thing when men and much more rarely women have to leave their spouses and families at home and seek employment abroad. But sure more of us had to do the same thing in our younger days for the sake of our families and their future. It now seems an awful pity that the government has done nothing to alleviate the plight of such families particularly those who may be at risk of being evicted from their heavily laden mortgaged homes.  In this budget there will be few winners and certainly there will be many losers but then we all must understand that in the financial morass in which we find ourselves the Government had a very tricky balancing act to do, all of a very delicate nature.  So taking all aspects of the budget into consideration this government could be said to have done as good as can be expected as we face into another year of austerity. It is certainly very doubtful if Fianna Fáil, or any other party combination of parties, could have done much better.  So in spite of the fact that some people with good reason will feel that in this budget they were hard done by there are others who no doubt will understand that we are not living in normal times and that everything that happens here is now directed by our European masters and that our own  Government is under constant pressure to toe the European line and in the extraordinary circumstances prevailing in our country at present the Government must be given due credit for doing the best they could in this austerity budget.  In the meantime the British Prime Minister David Cameron must be admired for the stand he took and using the veto against the deal that was hammered out at the Prime Ministers meeting. As usual the Irish went along with the flow to the detriment of our country and its people.  Fair play to the English they are not going to be bullied or dictated into accepting measures that could damage their independence or way of life. It is very likely that a referendum will need to be held here before further integration with the Europeans can be sanctioned. It is  to be hoped if this goes ahead that our people will not be codded again or bullied by threats into voting for another stupid treaty the likes of which has left us as we are at present, a broken bankrupt nation that has forfeited our hard won independence for a litany of broken promises made by our own successive Governments down through the years telling us of a European Utopia which looks now to be in the process of disintegration as it is obvious if the Euro concept falls apart the likelihood of the collapse of the European Union might very well follow.  A couple of weeks ago the Tánaiste Eamonn Gilmore expressed the hope that whatever deal is made in Europe there will be no need for a referendum here. Mr Gilmore and the rest of the Government have every reason to be apprehensive about a referendum for they know the people are sick and tired of supporting these European treaties which have got this country nowhere except deeper and deeper into debt with the European money lenders. In the meantime we will have to be reconciled into accepting this austerity budget and carrying on our usual everyday lives as best we can. 


Fr Gerry Memorial Unveiled

A large number of people from far and near turned out at St Bartholomew’s  Parish Church, Athea, on Sunday last for the Fr Gerry Roche’s second Anniversary Mass and the unveiling of the lovely memorial to him in the Church grounds.  The Mass was a beautiful ceremony which was concelebrated by one of the Kiltegan priests (Fr Gerry’s Order) and other Kiltegan Missionaries including a native priest from Kenya where Fr Gerry ministered for several years, also the local clergy and a number of other priests from various areas of Limerick and Kerry.  During the Mass members of the Memorial Committee and of Fr Gerry’s family performed the readings. Michael Woulfe, Chairman of the Memorial Committee, spoke of how the committee members met regularly for the past 18 months and put a lot of effort into the fund-raising. He also paid tribute to all those who contributed to the fund-raising and others who helped in different ways, such as the local FAS workers and supervisors and stone masons Brian Scanlon and his son John and Alan Ryan Hall who designed the Memorial, as well as the local clergy in providing the site within the Church Grounds, and Fr Gerry’s family for their co-operation. The local GAA club were also thanked for the 1968 County Championship medal which is incorporated into the Memorial.  During the Mass, Domhnall de Barra, who was also a member of the 1968 Athea team, sang one of Fr Gerry’s favourite songs “The Boys of Barr na Sráide” and after the Mass the Memorial was unveiled by Jimmy Denihan TD Minister for Arts and Culture who also paid a tribute to Fr Gerry’s courage and dedication to his calling. When the unveiling ceremony was completed tea, sandwiches, cakes and apple tarts were provided for all those who attended in the Memorial Hall afterwards. Domhnall de Barra, Bríd and Joe Stapleton provided some great lively music and later on a film was shown depicting the mission life of Fr Gerry in Kenya and the work he performed there right up to the time of his tragic death. The film also portrayed members of his family and friends and the shock and sadness that they went through on hearing the traumatic tidings of Fr Gerry’s death.  Last Sunday was a day of some great memories of a mighty man and to the Athea people one of their own, naturally intertwined with sadness and regret that a priest of his calibre and commitment did not make it home for his retirement where he would have been such an asset to our Parish.  It is good to know however that this beautiful memorial has been put in place to his memory where it will be honoured by all the people of the parish as well as other areas and hopefully by many of future generations.