In the last year the Irish public has undergone a major change of fortunes.
Before 2008 Ireland was often ranked among the top five in the Best Countries to Live Surveys, Happiness Indexes and Quality of life Surveys. The value of properties in Ireland was growing year on year and we had achieved nearly one hundred per cent employment. Even eradicating homelessness was seen as a possibility as the number of people who needed to live on the streets decreased year on year. Things were good, we were happy, and the rest of Europe envied us.
Now sadly the bubble has burst and the sad reality of tightening our belts is back.
Many want to blame the government for giving the people what they wanted, or in other words buying votes. Others want to blame the bankers for helping us to buy our dream homes. The situation is so dire it calls for an emergency budget on April 7th. Unlike the previous unprecedented early budget last November which was largely viewed as a political move by the government to be seen as to be ‘doing something’, the budget on April 7th will actually need to cut billions in expenditure. It will hurt everyone’s pockets; fairly or not we have to see, but it’s going to hurt.
As the first round of cuts was made last November it seemed nearly every affected group that lost some benefit was willing to go on the streets and tell the government that ‘It’s not fair’. The pensioners were unwilling to let go of a medical card that had only recently been introduced, public sector workers were unwilling to pay for a very favourable pension scheme and other groups also protested. It did seem unfair and the cuts in income would mean that it was going to be much more difficult for families to make ends meet, that is if they were lucky and kept their jobs.
For those who had lost their jobs already it was more bitter situation. Architects, accountants, business owners, tradespeople and others, all of whom had contributed fully to making the Celtic Tiger roar by paying their taxes and creating jobs now find themselves on the end of dole queues expected to live on very meagre incomes compared to not so long ago. On a different scale they faced the same problems the government is now facing; how to pay back a growing debt, how to cut expenditure, lifestyle changes, looking for new opportunities to increase their income and so on. Similarly they are faced with the dilemma of convincing the people who depend on them to also change their lifestyles to meet the new financial situation in their mini economy. They would have had to explain to their family members, as the government has to the people of Ireland, that yes we are not going to enjoy the lifestyle that we enjoyed previously, at least not for a while.
Similarly to the mini economy of the family unit when the economic situation changes for the worst family members need to respect and trust judgement of the breadwinner and cut expenditure to meet the income. That is the reality of the emergency budget facing us April 7th. Like it or not we have to cut costs and trust the people that the majority of people of Ireland elected to do it. We may not agree with the decisions made but it is impossible to please everyone.
In a democracy, however, if you don’t agree with the elected representatives you have a choice at the ballot and that choice is again facing the Irish people this summer. It is strangely difficult to find the requirements necessary for running for the local elections, however from what I could find, it's free to apply. All you need to do is to find fifteen other people in your local area who agree, that your ideas, energy and passion for improving the local community are worth voting for. The compensation is not bad either with the Irish Independent reporting last year that one councillor made 116,000 Euro which was including his expenses. Good work if you can get it.
However, the fifteen votes is only the start. To get elected you will need on average one thousand votes from people in your local community. It seems that at the moment there are many well qualified people who were previously leaders in various industries, they know the reality of the current change in economic situation and have already faced it. Perhaps they have some experience that would now be valuable in local government.