Po­lit­i­cal point-scor­ing does noth­ing for fam­i­lies still feel­ing pinch of aus­ter­ity

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - OPINION -

SIR, Two years ago we were told that aus­ter­ity was over but it ap­pears that aus­ter­ity mea­sures put in place largely con­tinue and are not re­versed to any mean­ing­ful ex­tent.

The lat­est ex­am­ple of this sur­faced in re­cent weeks in the dis­crim­i­na­tion in pen­sion en­ti­tle­ments, which mainly af­fects women to a greater ex­tent than men as they were the main home­mak­ers who took a break from work to rear fam­i­lies. In any case, women in the home gen­er­ally suf­fered great­est dur­ing the years of aus­ter­ity im­po­si­tion.

Many of th­ese peo­ple have been get­ting up early in the morn­ing from a young age and are now be­ing pe­nalised and dis­crim­i­nated against in our ‘re­pub­lic of op­por­tu­nity’ that Leo Varad­kar con­tin­u­ally refers to. In con­trast to that, it is amaz­ing how the pen­sions of re­tired politi­cians and min­is­ters are not af­fected in the same way, even though some of them may have bro­ken terms of of­fice.

In the midst of this con­tro­versy Fianna Fáil politi­cians are seek­ing pub­lic­ity, crit­i­cis­ing govern­ment pol­icy on this. Of course in the midst of their crit­i­cism they have failed to men­tion that it was their party that be­came the real anti-mother and anti-fam­ily party through their tax in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion pol­icy that was in­tro­duced in the bud­get of 2000. The con­se­quence of tax in­di­vid­u­al­i­sa­tion was the in­tro­duc­tion of a sig­nif­i­cant bias in the tax sys­tem against fam­i­lies where one spouse – mainly the mother – chose to stay at home and care for the chil­dren in the fam­ily, care for el­derly par­ents or may have been un­able to par­tic­i­pate in the work­force for health or other rea­sons.

That bud­get had the ef­fect of forc­ing some moth­ers into the work­place as it be­came less fi­nan­cially at­trac­tive for them to stay at home to care for their chil­dren. It could ar­guably be said that this was a pan­der to busi­ness in­ter­ests in or­der to en­cour­age work­place par­tic­i­pa­tion rather than tax re­form, as was the way it was sold at the time. It even meant that if a mother was un­able to work for what­ever rea­son, she and her fam­ily were cru­elly pe­nalised to the tune of many thou­sands of euro de­pend­ing on each in­di­vid­ual sit­u­a­tion. That as­pect could surely be de­scribed as a bla­tant and sav­age at­tack on women, moth­ers and fam­i­lies.

Of course that sys­tem still con­tin­ues today. It is es­ti­mated to be cost­ing av­er­age sin­gle-in­come fam­i­lies to the tune of €100 per week and we hear noth­ing about it from Fianna Fáil or any other po­lit­i­cal party or politi­cian.

It should be a le­git­i­mate so­cial pol­icy for any state to en­cour­age long-term, sta­ble re­la­tion­ships in which chil­dren are cared for in their own home by their par­ents; but Fianna Fáil did not seem to think so at the time, as par­ents were dis­cour­aged from spend­ing time with their chil­dren. At the time Fianna Fáil were not con­cerned with “cher­ish­ing chil­dren” as one of their cam­paign slo­gans sug­gested.

That pol­icy was a type of so­cial en­gi­neer­ing de­signed to en­cour­age work­force par­tic­i­pa­tion through the tax sys­tem. It af­fected all mar­ried cou­ples by greatly re­strict­ing their free­dom to choose whether to leave one spouse in the home. That pol­icy was a grave in­jus­tice to­wards sin­gle-in­come fam­i­lies and it still con­tin­ues today. Sin­cerely.

Christy Kelly. Tem­pleglan­tine.

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar

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