On December 6th, 2011, the Irish government announced a new and harsh austerity plan through a tight budget. The annual budget, now stripped of a regular rise in social welfare payments, is part of a dreaded aspect of living in 21st century Ireland, a country plagued by a seemingly incurable economic depression. Cuts were made to agriculture, transport, health, and education. The cost of college registration fees rose, on top of the gradual phasing out of maintenance grants for less well-off students. Taxes were introduced for almost everything and anything, a water tax as well as a house tax, the only tax they didn’t introduce was a scratch-your-ass tax. VAT was raised and so was the car tax. Savage cuts were made to allowances for the disabled and lone parents while a fuel allowance for pensioners was also cut. The 2012 budget ensured one thing and one thing only: in Ireland the poor get poorer. The government declared that the aim of this budget was to rebuild the Irish economy and strengthen society, but the truth is that this vicious programme of deep cuts and high taxes will only serve to weaken society even more.
The Irish government stated that it could get the country back on track over a four-year period in which severe austerity measures will be carried out. As Ireland is officially a ‘programme country’ we must answer to others; our own domestic dealings are not entirely ours to decide on anymore. In order to meet the financial targets imposed by the IMF-EU-ECB troika, the government set out a plan to raise 1.6 billion euro through taxes while making a saving of 2.2 billion through draconian spending cuts. The sectors most affected by such cuts included health and education. While suicide rates in Ireland are soaring, cuts in mental health projects have been made; and no longer can we claim to be the island of saints and scholars as the education system is crumbling under such cruel austerity measures.
Before the budget was delivered to the Irish public it was firstly given a look over by the Bundestag. Our economic sovereignty is gone and so too it seems is our general dignity. It did cause a slight uproar across the country, but only slight, because the Irish people were not surprised that the likes of Germany had to look at our domestic financial issues and decide what is best for us. We are essentially part of their economic empire, Ireland bowing to Europe as a serf.
The real winner in this economic crisis is Germany. It is emerging out of the crisis with the most dynamic economy in Europe and slowly becoming one of the most powerful countries in the world. Germany cannot be blamed for the collapse of the Irish economy, we did that to ourselves through capitalist-driven greed and corruption, but Germany is gaining from the misfortunes of countries like ours. While bailouts are being pushed upon countries like Spain in addition to Ireland and Greece, Germany does not moan because it is still reaping the benefits of securing markets for its goods and moreover enjoying low interest rates. As Germany grows, others such as Ireland are forced to shrink. The German economic empire is expanding across Europe under the cover of talks of trying to re-unify Europe.
Ironically, the delivery of the 2012 budget by the Irish government on December 6th coincided with the ninetieth anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, a document that brought about the end of the war of independence and the setting up of a semi-independent Irish Free State. Ninety years on, although we are no longer under the rule of the British, we now find ourselves under the rule of the IMF.
The 2012 budget dished out high taxes and mean cuts and even more pressures on this generation to emigrate, for the message to the youth contained in the budget is this: whatever you do in Ireland, don’t get sick, don’t get old, and don’t be young because brutal austerity measures will guarantee that you will not enjoy a decent life on the emerald isle.
Lily Murphy is 24 years old and comes from Cork city, Ireland. She is a graduate of University College Cork from where she achieved a B.A in history and politics. These days she falls into the category of Ireland’s lost generation. Email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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