In this week’s blog Fr Paddy writes about how with the upcoming Budget, the vulnerable will suffer and are suffering at the hands of our state government.

Much media attention, coupled with anxiety and fear has been given to the forth coming budget in early December. In a time of cut-backs, no doubt, the vulnerable will be affected most. This must be challenged. I recently sat through a talk given to elderly people concerning the ‘Fifty Cent’ increase in prescription charges per medication, monthly. One lady shared with us that she takes eighteen tablets a day amounting to over Eight Euro a month extra on her prescription charge. Again the unemployed, elderly and most vulnerable are being punished. I find this so difficult to reconcile, as the country faces bankruptcy after bailing out greedy, wealthy, bankers and developers at a cost of over Thirty Billion Euro taken from tax payers money.

I remember not so long ago, a representative of the hospital consultant’s organisation famously suggested that a Quarter of a Million Euro per annum was a ‘Mickey Mouse’ salary. The offer on the table to the consultants at the time, was an annual salary of two hundred and five thousand, plus bonuses of forty five thousand euro. Unacceptable, derisory, ‘Mickey Mouse’. Who could possibly expect consultants to work for a Quarter of a Million Euro a year? Who could possibly expect John Brophy pay an extra Nine Euro per month on his medical card prescription expenses out of One Hundred and Ninety Eight Euro a week???

There is, officially at least, no class system in Ireland. People tend to live in self-enclosed worlds, with little appreciation or knowledge of how other people live – or partly live. The longer we live in that world, the more protected it becomes and the more they only listen to the echo of their own voices, the more unreal is the belief that somehow or other that the world can be sustained – even when it is clear that it is coming apart at the seams.

The same is very true in relation to the Catholic Church, one of the biggest difficulties is that we refuse to accept that the old world has crumbled under our feet and rather than clinging to the vestiges of the past that we should be engaging with the present if we want to be part of the future. What tends to happen when previously self-contained groups come under pressure is that the only voices that are heard are those who make the right noises. The result is that the draw-bridge goes up, the wagons are circled, the mega phone comes out. Everyone is out of step, but us. And if people would listen, they would realise that the continuation of this cosy world is for your own good. Those who become leaders, are perceived to be those who can defend but never score, centre backs rather than strikers, dull corner backs, rather than creative wingers.

Its difficult to figure out where are we going. In building a new frame-work where opportunity and equality co exist at all levels in our society, justice is an essential ingredient. Fundamental change is truly necessary in so many structures and institutions in our society. The voice of the vulnerable needs to be represented loudly to those who are preparing to punish them first, next December.