Poor pay for reckless spending, says priest

PATSY McGARRY Religious Affairs Correspondent

Mon, Nov 16, 2009

A JESUIT priest has challenged possible reductions in social welfare, stating that the poorest were being forced to pay for reckless spending.

Why, given the behaviour of our banks, given Nama (National Asset Management Agency), are we talking about reducing social welfare rates, asked Fr Gerry O’Hanlon. It suggested “that Ireland’s poorest people are being forced to pay for the recklessness and corrupt activity of a number of extremely wealthy people and institutions”, he said.

Fr O’Hanlon was speaking at the annual citizenship service in Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral yesterday.

Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, associate professor of systematic theology at the Milltown Institute in Dublin, he is also author of the recently published The Recession and God, Reading the Signs of the Times.

He compared the doubling of numbers jailed this past year for non-payment of fines to the way some of the “financial shenanigans in the banking sector” have been handled. Why the stark contrast? he asked.

Why “does this same banking sector, forgiven debtors themselves, at least co-responsible for the property and housing bubble, not lobby for debt forgiveness and mitigation for its own customers experiencing difficulties with mortgage repayments?” he suggested.

Why was there such an emphasis on cutting public expenditure and on the McCarthy report, when services in health, education, prisons and so on are often so inadequate, and so little emphasis on the Report of the Commission on Taxation, he asked.

“Truly all this is a social disgrace, to use the language of liberation theology,” he said.

There was, he said, widespread and deep anger among our citizens at the incompetence, complacency and recklessness of their leaders. It was important that politicians, bankers, developers, and associated groups who led the revels in the so-called Celtic Tiger era, recognised this anger, he said.

© Irish Times, 16 November 2009

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