In this week’s blog, Fr Paddy asks us to think of those most affected by the current economic recession and its effect on everyday life as we approach Christmas.

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Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 18th November 2009

The past year has been a time of great burden for so many who are greatly affected by this very turbulent recession. When we reflect on our current situation immediately many begin to feel overwhelmed with anger and anxiety. It is in many ways unbelievable when we consider how quickly the cookie crumbled. From boom to bust in a few months, that perhaps will take future generations, to fully understand what exactly happened to bring us to this fragile and vulnerable economic reality. A situation where we now are accustomed to massive job losses every week. Unemployment affects all our family lives. In County Carlow over Six Thousand people are now unemployed. Many of us struggle to understand what’s happening and are deeply frustrated by the lack of clarity and leadership given at this time.

The Celtic Tiger years will perhaps find us all wanting in our greed, extravagance and insatiable hunger making but we all bought into the rat race. Huge mortgages, immaculate furnished houses, extravagant lifestyles that were funded largely by excessive borrowing and debt. In our desire for progress I personally do not want to return to a false economy or belong to a superficial culture that was so typical in the past decade. In our search for something new I believe we must learn and take stock of the roller coaster ride of ups and downs, frills and spills, which tells the story of a generation. One fundamental truth is that the vicious cycle of poverty continues to escalate. The working classes have benefited least of all from the boom and now are suffering most in this time of bust. Not only are the unemployed, elderly, children and those who live with special needs struggling but are being punished and bullied in our search for a way forward.

I have a huge problem in taking the Christmas allowance from the unemployed and the elderly in the name of cost efficiency. In preparing for the budget one hopes that the needs of the most fragile are being listened too. Cutbacks from those dependent on social welfare is immoral and wrong. Why are the most fragile always the first to feel the chills of this cold and dark winter? The Christmas bonus offered families and elderly a very rare opportunity to perhaps get an extra bag of coal, purchase the Christmas turkey and practically prepare for Santa’s gifts for children. This is going to be a desperate Christmas for so many people who have this bonus taken from the pittance that they have to survive on every week. This reality is greatly contrasted with our corporate and business culture who only months ago lavished bonuses and exuberant salaries in the name of prosperity. In finding a path to recovery there must be a way forward that will not punish the most vulnerable first every time.

In the name of recovery and building a just and more inclusive society, will our public representatives stand for the vulnerable people of Carlow and plead in their name to receive this very small Christmas bonus.