In a time of global economic uncertainty, one can accept that resources are limited than previous times but the recent budget was a sinful disgrace that continues to reward the advantaged and cripple the vulnerable in our communities.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 19 November 2008

Recent weeks have made me very angry and disillusioned with our Government and political system. In a time of global economic uncertainty and slowdown, one can accept that recourses are more limited than previous times but the recent budget was a sinful disgrace that continues to reward the advantaged and cripple the most vulnerable in all our communities. Effective communities embrace the vulnerable and in doing so create a dynamic where others are motivated to contribute, succeed and flourish. An Effective budget can only in the Christian sense be as balanced as it benefits the weakest members of our society. This budget showed no vision, no sense of a radical approach to bring justice and real equality to enhance the lives of all our people. The two most important groups of society were attacked in a manner that was quite shocking that are the elderly and the young.

The elderly in our communities have gone through so much and have contributed and benefited all our lives in terms of their hard work, generous volunteerism and steadfast endurance. Trying to take the medical card off the over seventies brought huge anxiety and great pressure on a people whose lives have shaped and given us this vibrant Ireland. While because of huge pressure the government have u-turned, there continues to be a real fear, that such cutbacks may well revisit the elderly in the not to distant future.

The education cutbacks have and will prove to reduce significantly the quality of education that every primary, secondary and third-level student will receive in this country. An increase in pupil-teacher -ratio will significantly reduce the quality of education in primary schools. The abolition of the book grant is a direct hit at children who come from low income families. So too, reduction in grants to both learning and language support teachers, will reduce their effective teaching resources, to again the most disadvantaged in our society, including members of the travelling communities and children from non-national families. Increases in third level registration fees continues a worrying trend that young people from low income families struggle to gain access to third level education. Perhaps the most outrageous of all these cutbacks directed towards young people, is the withdrawal of a vaccine to reduce the risk of cervical cancer in young girl’s adult lives.

A radical shift in attitude and political leadership has taken place in the United States of America. Barrack Obama captivated a new generation who previously were apathetic and silent. His voice of change promises to address the fundamental problems of injustice and inequality that takes place in all our communities. His passion and enthusiasm has sparked a people to believe that we can all make a difference and contribute to the wellbeing of our society. I believe that such change is necessary in our government. We need a radical leadership that can fan into flame the huge potential and rich energy that is contained within the hearts of all our young people. Let us pray for courage and vision to support and defend the fundamental rights of those most vulnerable in all our communities. Our young people and the elderly must be supported and protected.