Issue 47 Budget 2004: Preserving a Divided Society?


on Thursday, 18 December 2003. Posted in Issue 47 Budget 2004: Preserving a Divided Society?, 2003

December 2003

Dear Reader,

We are happy to present to you with the December 2003 issue of Working Notes. We hope you find it helpful for your reflection and work.

In our opening article, Budget 2004: Small Change for the Poor, Robin Hanan of EAPN (European Anti-Poverty Network) Ireland, analyses the seventh Budget to be introduced by the current Minister for Finance. While welcoming the increases announced in social welfare payments, and the concentration of income tax cuts on the lowest paid, Robin Hanan suggests that, viewed in a broader context, the Budget is not so ‘harmless’. It was preceded by the Estimates, published in November, which introduced welfare cuts that will save a comparatively small amount of money but have a devastating impact on the people affected, and by a year-long run-down of the Community Employment and Jobs Initiative Schemes. The Budget is critically considered in the light of fact that Ireland is the fastest-growing economy in the European Union, and the member country with the second-highest level of income, yet has the lowest spending on social provision and the lowest overall tax rates.He concludes that the Budget showed little indication of a willingness to undertake the type of taxation and spending measures that would be required to seriously address the tasks of eradicating poverty, reducing inequality and developing a level of public services commensurate with our wealth.

In the second article in this issue, Economics and Justice, economist Eithne Fitzgerald argues that the purpose of any economic system ought to be to serve the greater good of society and to ensure that the basic human needs of all its people are met in a way that is both fair and efficient. Ireland over the past decade illustrates some of the virtues and the vices of the market model. Its benefits, in terms of rising incomes and increased employment, are highlighted in public and political discourse. She suggests that even though mainstream economics acknowledges that there are important areas of activity where the market \'does not give the right answer\', public debate on economic policy has become increasingly dominated by those adhering to a blind belief in market forces. She argues there is need for an alternative economic voice - one that places justice and redistribution at the heart of our economic values.

As a seasonal offering, we are privileged to have insightful Perspectives on Christmas from two people who have come to reside in Ireland from afar, Zhiyan Sharif, who is from Kurdistan in Iraq and Egide Dhala who is from the Congo. Finally, Cathy Molloy introduces a Christmas Reflection from an essay by Karl Rahner SJ.

If you enjoy what you read in these pages and find it useful we invite you to consider making a voluntary subscription to Working Notes. We suggest a sum of €15.00 per year. If you wish to contribute more to our work, we would be most appreciative.

We thank you for your continued support and wish all our readers a very happy Christmas.



Eugene Quinn
Director, Centre for Faith and Justice



Budget 2004 – Small Change for the Poor

on Thursday, 18 December 2003. Posted in Issue 47 Budget 2004: Preserving a Divided Society?, 2003

Robin Hanan

December 2003


The day after Budget 2004, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern TD, was on the defensive. The Budget, he declared, would dispel the myth that this was a right-wing Government which cared only for its rich friends. He talked about the increase in social welfare payments and the concentration of income tax cuts on the incomes of the lowest paid, particularly those at the minimum wage.

In spite of the unpopularity of the Government, he might just get away with it. The media found so little that was contentious that it was the announcement in the Budget speech of the decentralisation of government departments that became the focus of attention.

Economics and Justice

on Thursday, 18 December 2003. Posted in Issue 47 Budget 2004: Preserving a Divided Society?, 2003

Eithne Fitzgerald

December 2003


©D. Speirs

Equity and wider human well being must be central concerns in a just economic order

Economics - Value Free?

Economics is central to public policy and economic policy affects centrally the lives of citizens. Economics allows us to explore the likely outcomes of particular economic activities and to examine how policy impacts on different groups in society - who benefits and who loses - and to come up with proposals for change.


And so this is Christmas...?

on Thursday, 18 December 2003. Posted in Issue 47 Budget 2004: Preserving a Divided Society?, 2003


Cathy Molloy

December 2003


Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas many people find themselves drawing breath now and again and wondering what it is all about. On the one hand, there is the exhilaration of the \'season of goodwill\', the decorations and seasonal music to brighten all our lives, the getting together with friends or colleagues or family, the special food and present-giving that lifts us right out of the ordinary humdrum existence of short days and long winter nights. Where would we be without it? On the other hand, there are constant reminders that Christmas is not a joyous fun-time for everyone. Loneliness and poverty, homelessness, isolation, hunger and sickness can be exacerbated at Christmastime and we are fairly bombarded with requests to include others at home and far away in our way of celebrating the great Christian feast. And so we should be.

Integrating Perspectives on Christmas

on Thursday, 18 December 2003. Posted in Issue 47 Budget 2004: Preserving a Divided Society?, 2003

December 2003

by Nadette Foley, Zhyan Sharif and Egide Dhala

Nadette: Christmas is a time for home coming. In many different parts of the world people make enormous efforts, and travel long distances, to spend Christmas-time with their families, even if only for a few days.  But just as in the past thousands of the Irish people who emigrated to North America, Australia or Britain, had to spend their Christmases away from home, so also many of the people who have come to Ireland in recent years as migrant workers, as refugees and especially as asylum seekers, do not have the option of going home for Christmas.  Returning may not be possible because they cannot afford the money, or the time, or if they leave they will not be re-admitted or the conditions in their home country make going back dangerous.

We tend to think that law defines what crime is. This makes sense because contemporary legal codes are concerned with marking out the territory where conduct is permissible by specifying the conduct that is outlawed. Yet the earliest bodies of law – consider for example, the Torah or Hammurabi’s Code – are at least as committed to articulating the good as proscribing the bad... Read full editorial

Working Notes is a journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The journal focuses on social, economic and theological analysis of Irish society. It has been produced since 1987.