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Austerity crippling rural Ireland - Cllr. Rachel McCarthy

13 April, 2013


Cllr Rachel McCarthy, Bandon, Co Cork

 

I am speaking today on the effects of austerity on public services in Ireland and in particular the detrimental affects that austerity is having in rural areas like West Cork and my home town of Bandon. Budget after budget over recent years by the troika of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour have brought services in Ireland to breaking point where it seems it is now more important to save a euro than it is to save a life. Where instead of reform--- closure and centralisation of services has become the norm and the quality of life and ease of accessibility for those who avail of public services whether in health, education, justice or transport has become a secondary thought.

I want to focus on the now annual cuts to the local government fund which all across the country is putting enormous pressure on local authorities to do even the most basic of repairs to housing stock, roads, lighting and signage. Reduction after reduction in this funding is making life intolerable for many living in social housing as they are forced to wait for long periods of time before the most routine of repairs are carried out. Further to this is the fact that Councils do not have funds to renovate vacant, boarded up properties to alleviate the long waiting lists for social housing which is growing year on year across the country. It is very disheartening for people who are on the social housing list for so long, having to walk past a house left idle and falling into further disrepair due to inaction by the relevant authorities. Applications for social housing is now near 15,000 for Cork City and County..While Voluntary Housing Organisations are working hard to try and provide homes for those on the waiting lists, they may in the future face closure as social housing has not been made exempt from the Family Home Tax. Many of these organisations work with marginalised groups in society such as the elderly, disabled and families in need. This FG/Labour government needs to wake up and get real, taxing the most vulnerable people in society is a step too far even for them!

The farcical notion that payment of the family home tax will improve these services is just plainly wrong and only an attempt by the government to further tax those who are already to the pin of their collar. For those who bought at the height of the boom the new tax on the family home and the fact it is going to be deducted at source without any consideration of ability to pay will only serve to increase the numbers of people falling into mortgage distress and hardship. Having spent the last number of weeks collecting signatures for the Sinn Fein petition against the family home tax in Bandon and Kinsale the true extent of the austerity path which Fine Gael and Labour have continued on has been highlighted to me again and again. In council chambers from Bandon to Bundoran government councillors especially those in Labour are speaking out against government cutbacks to these very local services and if one was being cynical you would think the upcoming local elections was fuelling their apparent anger. The fact is that the support of these very councillors to their parties gives those in the cabinet the very security to make the decisions which directly harm those they were elected to represent. Those very councillors need to realise the source of their ire is within their own parties and if they are going to talk the talk they should be prepared to walk the walk.

 

PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST Minister Hogan’s plan for local government reform does the exact opposite and puts people last. It is time for reform at local government level but a properly resourced model which provides for transparency and accountability and the ability to fund local services is what’s needed. Not a layer of democracy dependent on cuts to survive and unable to provide the most basic of needs.  

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