Funeral Directors Aim Daggers At Irish Minister

The recent decision by the Irish Government to scrap the ‘Bereavement Grant’ has less than impressed those involved in the Funeral business in Ireland.

Funeral Expenses Grant abolished in Ireland

The 850 Euro grant was previously paid to families of the recently deceased to assist with funeral expenses. In an attempt to deflect from criticism of the grant’s abolition Ruairi Quinn, the Irish Education Minister, suggested that there is ‘insufficient competition’ in the funeral business in Ireland. Clearly he thinks that the cost of funerals is being inflated by the bereavement grant and thus has no problem disposing of it.

It is estimated that the cost of a Funeral in Ireland is about 5000 euro (just under 7000 US$). Welfare Minister Joan Burton pointed out that there is still a generous allowance in the event of the pensioner’s death:

“If one partner of a pensioner couple dies, their spouse continues to get the social welfare payment of the deceased spouse for six months. That is worth roughly 1,200 to 1,400 Euro.”

Apart from the Bereavement Grant the Telephone Allowance for Pensioners has also been scrapped while Welfare for those aged under 26 years has been reduced. The Fine Gael and Labour Party Government made much of the fact that they have not increased the rates of taxation in their most recent annual budgets. Nevertheless their tenure in office has seen a whole host of new ‘stealth’ taxes introduced in tandem with some pretty savage cuts to services.

These latest cutbacks are just one of a number of measures in the recent annual Budgets that have attempted to roll back some of the largesse offered to Irish citizens during the Celtic Tiger years.

Times are very different now.

With the country effectively bankrupt the last five years has seen some very severe so-called ‘austerity’ measures implemented by successive Irish Governments. It would be expected then that a people who enjoy their reputation as being ‘The Fighting Irish’ would hit back and hard.

Not so.

Opposition from the Irish population has been relatively minimal. No Greek or French style riots. No imprisoning of Bankers and Government officials as happened in Iceland. The Irish have taken the economic downturn pretty much in their stride.

Or Emigrated.

by Michael Green
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Alcohol Abuse in Ireland Targeted by Irish Government

A new Public Health Bill is to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol products based on the alcohol content of the drink.

Irish Government is trying to reduce Alcohol consumption

The new laws are an effort to reduce the consumption of cheaper high-alcohol beers, wines and spirits. For the first time products will be targeted based on the actual amount of alcohol they contain.

Other new measures include:

* From 2016 alcohol advertising on TV and Radio is to be confined to evening time.

* Advertising of alcohol in Cinemas will be confined to over-18 movies only.

* Outdoor advertising of alcohol will also be restricted.

* Supermarkets and other outlets will have to relocate alcohol products to their own separate location within a premises.

* All alcohol products will in future carry health warnings (but significantly not with the kind of graphic pictures used on cigarette packets).

The President of the Irish Medical Organisation, Dr Matthew Sadlier, welcomed the new regulations:

“In Ireland, despite high excise duties alcohol has become increasingly more affordable. Under a minimum pricing structure, the price per unit becomes more expensive particularly affecting demand by younger binge drinkers and excessive harmful drinkers. Thus minimum pricing can reduce alcohol-related harm without necessarily penalising moderate drinkers.”

The new laws have been criticized for not going far enough and especially for not banning the sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies. In a surprising ‘pact with the devil’ the Irish sports lobby successfully persuaded Government that the withdrawal of sponsorship by the alcohol companies would severely impact on funding for sporting activities.

Pat Hickey, the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, clearly disagreed with some of his colleagues in the Irish sporting community and responded by launching a scathing attack on the drinks industry in Ireland and particularly on the veiled threats by Diageo to reduce its investment in Ireland should a ban on drinks-industry sponsorship of sporting events be implemented:

I thought it was an absolute disgrace to read a report of an international company, Diageo, making an attack on the Irish Government and the Irish State about how they should conduct their business and investment. This is a multinational that has no interest whatsoever in Ireland except they happen to have a product beginning with ‘G’ and they promote that in Irish pubs just to get bigger profits around the world.

Abuse of Alcohol in Ireland costs Billions

A report that was recently published by the Health Research Board revealed that 58% of Irish people think the Government is not doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption. 85% of those surveyed believe that the current level of consumption of alcohol in Ireland is far too high. Average consumption in the year 2010 was 145% higher than the average amount consumed in the year 1960, a huge increase by any standard.

While the drinks industry in Ireland may be concerned at the new regulations they will surely be celebrating their most recent success at being able to continue their sponsorship of Irish sporting events.

Where they can recruit new and young devotees.

And all aided and abetted by the Irish sports lobby!

by Michael Green
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Opinion Polls driving Fianna Fail and Fine Gael together – Doom for Labour Party

The prospect of Fianna Fail entering a coalition with Fine Gael after the next General Election is looking ever more possible. A recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll certainly points toward such a possibility and also makes very, very bad reading for the Labour Party.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams

Labour are currently in Government with Fine Gael whom they joined in coalition after the 2011 General Election. Fine Gael took the bulk of the Fianna Fail vote with Labour also soaring to new highs in the hope that the party would see off the money-men of the EU/IMF/ECB troika who were/are hated by large sections of the Irish population.

‘Burn the bondholders’
‘Let the banks fail’,
‘Gilmore for Taoiseach’ were the rallying cries.

The reality has been very different for the Labour Party. Nurses, Labourers, Teachers, Public and Civil Servants, lower-paid workers and even the unemployed all voted for Labour in their droves at the last election. Now they are looking elsewhere.

Irish Nurses proitest against Government policies

By continuing the policies of the previous Fianna Fail government both Labour and Fine Gael chose to play a long game. Fine Gael could make the case that they have no choice but to implement the policies they inherited while alternately blaming Fianna Fail and then claiming the credit for the economy stabilizing. Labour however, have no such luxury.

It was the Labour Party that was supposed to represent the working classes. Instead they implemented cuts to services and installed the hated Property Tax, threatening and bullying the Irish citizenry into submission.

Eamon Gilmore is the Labour Party leader

Just 6% of voters now say they would now vote for Labour (down from 19%) while 23% say they would vote for Sinn Fein and 22% for Fianna Fail. Sinn Fein and the Labour Party occupy much of the same left-wing space on the political spectrum yet it is Gerry Adam’s party that now seems to represent the working classes. Historically though Sinn Fein have always done better in opinion polls than at the ballot box. This is probably because their support comes largely from a younger population who are in fact less likely to actually vote.

With 26% support Fine Gael cannot afford to be too smug either. Both they and Fianna Fail have repeatedly said that they would not go into a coalition Government with Sinn Fein. Logically then, if an election were held tomorrow the obvious new Government would be a coalition of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail!

In the US this would be the equivalent of John Boehner cozying up with Barack Obama in a Democrat-Republican national government to run the country.

Could it happen in Ireland? This possibility has recently been floated by former members of both of these political parties. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have their genesis in the 1922 Irish Civil War. Over the last two decades any lingering differences have rapidly dissipated. Socially Fine Gael is viewed as being more conservative than Fianna Fail but there seems to be little to choose between their economic approach.

Is a grand union possible?

In Ireland after the economic crash, anything is possible.

Irish Rejection of Seanad Abolition is a National Disgrace

The defeat of the proposal to abolish the powerless Seanad House in the recent Referendum in Ireland is a damning indictment of the Irish people.

Seanad Referendum Result in Ireland

The Seanad House is the upper house of the Irish parliament. It cannot prevent legislation from Dail Eireann (the main parliament) being enacted and has for decades been used as a way to bail out failed politicians and to reward public figures who supported the Government of the time.

It is not accountable to the Irish electorate with many members of the Seanad either being appointed by University Graduates or directly by the Government of the time. Members of the Seanad enjoy huge financial benefits at the expense of the public and have no real power or function.

It should have been an easy decision therefore, to abolish the Seanad. All of the signs pointed to an easy victory for the abolitionists. An opinion poll just a few days before the vote indicated 62% of those in favour of the proposal and in the few intervening days nothing of any real substance happened. There were no major developments, no game-changing revelations.

How then was the proposal defeated by just under 52% to 48%? What is the reason for a 14 percentage points swing in only a few days when nothing significant occurred?

The answer is both simple and depressing: The Irish people did not vote.

The Constitution of a country is mostly regarded as a sacred thing.
In some countries.
But clearly not in Ireland.

With a turnout of only 39% of the approximately 3.15 Million eligible voters only 1.23 Million voted. Those who won the referendum amounted to 0.63 Million. Just over 623,000 voters decided the fate of the Irish Constitution. The population of Ireland is approximately 4.6 Million.

So where is the disgrace? A lot of people are just not interested in politics. Many are too worried about paying their bills.

By comparison European countries such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Germany regularly have huge voter engagement compared to Ireland. Foreign Reporters who visit Ireland look on in amazement at the utter lack of interest shown by the citizens here. The country is on its knees financially and here was a perfect opportunity to save countless millions of euro over the coming years by greatly reducing the number of politicians in that rarest of events – an example of real political reform.

What did the Irish people do?

1. They did not vote.
2. Some of those that did vote used their ballot as a protest against Government policies.
3. Those that stood to gain from the retention of the Seanad enthusiastically campaigned in their own self-interest.
4. Some political parties (Fianna Fail in particular) cynically used the Referendum as an opportunity to give the Government a thumping. More self interest.

The biggest reason though is the first listed above. The Irish people have long since lost any right to complain or protest. You get the Government you vote for and the life you settle for. If you are not wiling to vote then you have lost any right to complain. You need to shut up.

Those pictures of lottery winners that regularly adorn the tabloid newspapers could today easily be replicated with pictures of the Seanad members after the Referendum votes were counted. They Have won the lottery and at our expense.

What do the Irish people do?
They sit in their bars drinking their pints, watching the football.
They moan and grumble about the latest round of austerity taxation.
They drink their bottles of wine while watching their soap operas on television.

While the well-heeled elite from the Universities and professional classes laugh at them for their ignorance and stupidity (and then count up the allowances and pensions they can parasitically squeeze from our system of Government) the Irish…… down another pint. And complain.

The upcoming 1916 anniversary of the Easter Rising should be cancelled immediately. The Republic for which those men and women fought is dead.

There are countries in this world that are today fighting and suffering to get the freedom and democracy we Irish so take for granted.

We are a disgrace.

by Michael Green
Home Page

Dublin Property Market Increase Sparks Fear Of A New Bubble

The Irish people do not need any reminding of the devastating effect that a property bubble can have. Back in 2008 when the property market in Ireland imploded the Irish banks had to go cap-in-hand to the Government for support. ‘Back us or the ATMs will stop working’ was the blunt message offered to the Irish politicians of the time. They duly obliged by underwriting the deposits held by the banks, preventing any mass withdrawal of funds by the public and financial institutions.

Irish Property market has stabilized after massive crash

The problem with the bank guarantee was that, while it kept the ATMs operating it also underwrote the funds held by the massive institutional investors, including those in France and Germany. When the banks were eventually nationalized the bonds held by the European investors became payable by the Irish State. ‘Burn the Bondholders’ was one of the famous slogans used in the run up to the 2011 election. To date there has been little or no evidence of that happening with the EU/IMF/ECB troika protecting their own interests while drip-feeding enough finance into the Irish economy to keep the lights on.

The situation has stabilized since then but at some cost. Unemployment remains stubbornly above 14%. Job opportunities are limited with massive emigration the escape valve. Taxation has been greatly increased to the point where even those most enthusiastic in engaging austerity are suggesting that a financial stimulus and not more taxation is now what is required.

Against this backdrop the Irish property market has suffered one of the greatest collapses in modern history. Only Dubai has suffered a bigger recent loss as the value of houses and apartments plummeted by anywhere between 40% and 60% depending on the report that is cited. Banks of course, are now much more stringent in their lending policies, anxious to avoid the mistakes of the past. But it may be a case of ‘a short memory’ for some people.

It has long been suspected that the value of houses in Dublin has dropped too much, with no such reservations about the price falls in rural locations. Tiny little towns with half-built housing estates and a dwindling population are a recipe for further house price falls. But in Dublin there are enclaves and districts that have seen pretty hefty gains. A recent Myhome.ie report indicates that prices for property in the capital city are 26% above the national average price of 191,000 Euro (US$258,000).

Unfinished housing estate blight the Irish landscape

The same report indicates that nationally house prices fell by 7.8% over the last year, which is a lot better than the 14.3% recorded the previous year. But Dublin prices have soared by 10.6% over the last year according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the price increase fuelled mainly by a lack of housing stock.

Could it be that massive house and apartment building will again get under way in the city? This seems fanciful at the moment but there Are signs of new construction work being undertaken in Dublin. With the population of Ireland expected to grow by at least 10% over the next 15 years it is estimated that 20,000 new housing units are needed annually to keep pace with the demand. During the boom years upwards of 40,000 housing units were being constructed. This year the likely total will be about 6000.

Until the supply of houses increase in Dublin city it seems likely that prices will continue to rise. But any sudden shift in sentiment or a dramatic increase in supply (such a as a major spate of bank repossessions and then fire-sales) could yet see a repeat of the recent pain for Dublin house-owners.

A short memory indeed.