The Kilkenny native national president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul has written to the members of the “troika” to urge them to pursue a more sustainable rescue package instead of relying heavily on cuts to public services.
Geoff Meagher is asking the members of the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission to reconsider the sustainability of the path Ireland is on in trying to meet the terms set out for the Irish government in the bailout package.
His strongly worded letter argued that the means being used to tackle the budget deficit would worsen Ireland’s ability to recover from the economic crisis, as well as causing severe damage to the individuals and families that the charity assists.
In particular the charity takes issue with the IMF’s report of last August that said that key public services and the most vulnerable people had been protected in spite of the measures to reduce the budget deficit that have been introduced in recent years.
To emphasise its point, the SVP lists over 30 measures that have had an adverse effect on people reliant on social welfare and in lower-paid employment, those in poor health, those accessing further education, training and third-level education, children and young people.
Mr Meagher said that those who have already borne the brunt of the cutbacks and who are unable to take any more must be protected. “To this end Government must tackle the burden of the banking debt, reduce the non-core costs of providing public services and ensure that those who can afford it take more of the burden of the crisis on their shoulders,” he wrote.
Claims that the social welfare rates serve as a disincentive to taking up employment and that welfare rates were unnecessarily high in Ireland were also rejected by the SVP. It pointed to the fact that unemployment, and particularly long-term unemployment, was largely eliminated in Ireland when jobs were available. It also draws attention to the recent ESRI report that demonstrates that 94% of people in Ireland are better off in employment than out of work.
In the letters to the Troika members, Mr Meagher wrote: “Government must set out a road map for Irish society so that people are protected and can retain their hope and optimism for the future. This includes putting in place the conditions to encourage employment creation, for those out of work and for our young people.”
He highlighted the fact that calls for assistance to the charity have increased by over 80% since 2009, with 60% of call coming from households with children.
“Our members are invited into the homes of people who seek our help to provide support, friendship and assistance. Such access is unique to the SVP through our home visitation system. The visits are carried out in a confidentiality and non-judgmental way and provide the Society with an informed understanding of the reality of austerity. We carry out over 400,000 visits each year and see at first hand the impact of the economic crisis has had on struggling households,” he wrote.
“The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is standing with people who are struggling in Ireland today, to reassure them that they are not facing their personal, financial or emotional crisis alone.”