Watching the prophetic Fr Peter McVerry, who has devoted his life to work with the homeless, on RTE last night, made depressing viewing. As homelessness on the streets of Dublin increases, all the civil servant interviewed on the programme could respond was that a review was taking place.
Homelessness is part of a litany of government failures, much of the boasted wealth of the country seems mysteriously to have evaporated.
The HSE who cannot find funds to get people off the streets have also cut back on long-term care beds for elderly people. Steph wrote two weeks ago on a reduction of twenty beds at an excellent public hospital; a reduction that will have a knock on effect as people in need of long term care will remain in acute hospitals. Anyone visiting a public hospital will become aware of the already sever pressure on staff and facilities
While the HSE is making cuts in its budgets, similar retrenchment is taking place elsewhere. The Minister of Education acknowledged last December that there was not the money to enable the Government to keep its promise to reduce the size of classes. More money is expected to be provided at local level; more pressure on schools to fund raise to try to provide even basic facilities.
When domestic rates were abolished in Ireland, the understanding was that local councils would be provided with funds from central government in order to carry out their required functions, but rates have reappeared by the back door with the emergence of charges for basic services. The waste charges are general. Water charges, which were meant to be commercial, have been extended to all non-domestic buildings, everything from Scout Dens to churches, and particularly to schools. New housing developments on the west side of Dublin are having water meters installed at the gateways of houses. The councils protest all these measures are necessary because the government no longer provides the grant aid required.
If there is such a shortage of money, how can Ireland afford an increase in military expenditure? Indeed, why in post-troubles Ireland, does there need to be an increase in military expenditure?
The Lisbon Treaty, urged on us by all the main political parties, includes the clause:
THE COMMON SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY
49.3 Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy, to contribute to the objectives defined by the Council. Those Member States which together establish multinational forces may also make them available to the common security and defence policy.
Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities.
With what shall we pay? Some more rough sleepers? Some more elderly people with no place to go? Some more children in sub-standard classrooms?
Would the government just answer one question: where will they find the money to meet the treaty commitments?