FINANCE Minister Brian Cowen delivered a speech setting out his "personal vision" for Ireland,in July 2006.
Stepping out from Bertie Ahern's shadow, he shared his thoughts on the development of the nation in the future.
The Fianna Fail leadership frontrunner said he was an optimist about the direction the country was taking. From a time of national malaise and identity crisis around 1985, the population had emerged into a strong position of confidence and growth.
"Our people have responded every time the lead is given," Mr Cowen said in a keynote address to open the McGill summer school.
"There is no doubt that we have many serious problems to overcome, and that various trends, including globalisation, pose direct challenges. However, I believe that a fair balancing suggests many reasons to be positive about the soul of Ireland. We have the potential to strengthen further our social fabric and to do this on the basis of an ever-evolving culture and identity."
Mr Cowen said his vision of Ireland was one "which is, at its very core, positive and outward-looking.
"I completely disagree with those who say that progress has been all about the economy and nothing to do with society. That assertion does a grave disservice to successive governments and the social partners who have worked at agreeing economic and social priorities on the basis of a shared commitment."
The most dramatic change since he had entered politics was that Ireland had overcome mass unemployment and emigration. Increasing the number of jobs had provided greater purpose and greater meaning to individual lives than any other factor.
But Mr Cowen said that with prosperity "must come a sense of personal responsibility and self-discipline".
Warning against the coarsening of public life, he said be believed Ireland needed to put value on developing a culture that insisted on "civility in our dealings, courtesy and consideration for others, especially our elderly and vulnerable, and respect for our laws and those charged to uphold them." (Leas Cross etc etc.)
High levels of employment, a rising population and the achievement of an unprecedented pace of growth brought with it inevitable and serious pressures, he said.
"There is no doubt that families and communities face challenges today which make it hard for them to maintain much which was valuable in the past. (Like the cost of living.?) But equally there is no doubt that there are significant signs that the social capital of this country remains strong." (Like the threefold increase in your salary in 5 years?)
The report published by the Central Statistics Office gives the lie to his propaganda utterances.
It is a tale of two Irelands: one rich, one poor, one prosperous and productive, another rife with poverty and social exclusion.
It tells of a population outperforming the rest of the EU in everything from fertility to jobs while, at the same time, leaving one-fifth of the nation in its turbulent wake.
The report, Measuring Ireland’s Progress, 2005, published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) yesterday, shows that 21% of us face poverty and, despite three decades of equality legislation, women are more likely to be poor and still earn less than men.
The figures reveal an Ireland changing for the better economically but not socially.
The good news, according to the report, is that where a citizen in the 1920s was not expected to live to the age of 60, men can now expect to live to 78 and women to over 80.
But the bad news is that more of them will live on in isolation, apart from their families, lonely and fearful that illness will force them to endure an ailing health service.
The same goes for younger citizens. While Ireland in the past may have been poor, it at least had social cohesion, bolstered by large extended families and tight-knit communities.
That is now largely gone and there are a growing number of people living alone. The number of lone parents with young children has risen by a startling 80% in the past decade.
The CSO figures show that between 1998 and 2004, Ireland outperformed the rest of the EU in terms of income, employment growth and public finances.
But they also show how our social welfare system is failing to combat poverty.
In 2004, Ireland had the second-highest GDP per person in the EU. And, while the unemployment rate in Ireland increased slightly from a low point of 3.6% in 2001 to 4.2% in 2005, it is still the lowest rate in the EU in 2005.
However, spending on the health services is still substantially below the EU average and inflation in Ireland has been consistently higher than the EU average since 1999.
The proportion of Irish people at risk of poverty, after pensions and social transfer payments were taken into account, was 21% in 2004. This was one of the highest rates in the EU.
In 2002, social protection expenditure in Ireland was 15.9% of GDP — the lowest of the EU 15 countries.
There are other woes as well. The cost of living here has risen sharply. In the first half of the 1990s, price levels in Ireland were below the EU 25 average. But by 2004, prices here were over 23% above the EU average and Denmark was the only EU state with higher costs of living.
To the economist, these are figures on a page. To the lone parent minding the euros, they represent the struggle to survive.
€6bn in 1999 to €17bn. last year"
"And the list of mismanagement and maladministration goes on. You have more chance of the roof staying on the aquatic centre, than you have of putting a ceiling on all of this." declared Pat Rabbite.
"No amount of belligerence from Mr Cowen can avoid the stark reality of this incompetence, mismanagement and arrogant waste of taxpayers' money," said Mr Rabbitte, who was delivering the Jim Kemmy Memorial Lecture at the Tom Johnson Summer School in Kells.
The Labour leader claimed the decision of his party's conference in May on electoral strategy had injected a new dynamic into the political process "Our goal is to do much more than simply change the faces around the Cabinet table. Our aim is to make good on the promise of the Celtic Tiger - to use our national prosperity to bridge the chasm between the success of our economy, and the strain on our society.
Labour aimed to replace a centre-right Government devoid of vision, with a centre-left Government that would start building a new economic and social dispensation the Fair Society, Mr Rabbitte said.
IRISH EMPLOYERS joined consumers in an unprecedented revolt over Ripoff Ireland in Aug 2005; The timing of the employers' revolt came as Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Fail parliamentary party gather in Cavan to lick their wounds following sustained fire. Council charges spur employers to join growing rip-off revolt Amid mounting job losses, employers are to take on the Government head-on over "exorbitant" local government charges now crippling industry. The move, to be announced at a major press conference today by employers' body Ibec, puts them on a collision course with the Government. Ibec will demand a series of reforms to cut rates and water charges and introduce a more fair and equitable system of local government funding as a condition for successful new national partnership talks, it was confirmed yesterday.
The decision to mount an "autumn of discontent" campaign is another huge headache for Fianna Fail, already reeling from the consumer revolt
spearheaded by people's champion Eddie Hobbs. over consumer rip-offs, massive over-spending on public infrastructure and penny-pinching on health, education and transport.
Ibec will today reveal that businesses have reached the end of their tether over "excessive local government user-charges and rates".
These massive costs are applied without equity, consistency, transparency or consultation, the organisation believes.
A whopping €900m was collected through commercial rates, accounting for 25pc of local government current expenditure last year. This has soared by 110pc in just eight years. This contradicts the Government claim that Ireland is a low tax economy, a claim increasingly being ridiculed. "This manner of funding, which relies almost exclusively on business, is both inequitable and unsustainable. It must be changed," Ibec will say.
The employers' campaign, launched by Ibec director general Turlough O'Sullivan today, will culminate "at the national partnership talks, in a
concerted effort to bring about significant change in local authority funding". Ibec's submission to government highlights "exorbitant charges, regional discrepancies, lack of controls and reliance on the commercial sector in funding local government expenditure".
Its unprecedented campaign is aimed at bringing about fundamental reforms that should make local government here more equitable and also more efficient.
As part of the campaign, local authorities will be asked to justify particular charges.
But local authorities around the country are arguing they are in such dire financial straits that they have to increase commercial rates and water
The day the Fianna Fail fat cats and all their builders and speculator cronies disappear into the sunset with their bank balances bulging with squalid profits gleaned from the suffering of first time house buyers can not come to soon for most decent people in this country.
The government website www.decentralisation.gov.ie states that the Minister for Finance Brian Cowan has welcomed the Decentralization Implementation Group's (DIG) report to the effect that 'Decentralisation will be a reality in 29 towns by the end of 2007" and that: "progress is well advanced in relation to the civil service aspects of the programme."
The Minister stated that: "the success of the programme can be seen from the fact that decentralisation is now a reality in 12 new locations and that over 2,000 civil servants will have relocated to 29 locations by the end of 2007". Furthermore; "This steady level of progress is an indication of the level of interest in relocating among civil servants and represents an endorsement of the ability of public service managers to effectively manage the staffing, business and property issues arising."? .
In continuation,Mr Cowan believes that the delivery time for some locations will lead to a greater concentration of moves in 2009 rather than in 2008, and he was particularly pleased to note that the "target" of 6,800 moves by end 2009 remains "on track".(Martin Cullen?)
The Minister stated that his colleague, Minister of State, Tom Parlon, in the Office of Public Works has completed or significantly advanced property acquisitions in over 34 locations.
While the first three paragraphs are amusing, and reflect the Goebellesque style ("The bigger the lie the more believable") in which most of Fianna Fail's dispatches are written nowadays, the last statement is the more frightening because it is truth, and the contracts entered into, may be irrevocable, in the unlikely event of a change of government.
We know who will foot the bill for comrade Ahern's failed Stalinesque decentralization plans but who will occupy these 34 palatial monuments/office blocks now under contract and construction nationwide,if nothing induces the ungrateful Civil Service to reconsider.?
As the government coffers are brimful of citizens cash, would anybody begrudge the O.P.W. converting them to Palaces to house our Glorious Leader while he visits his loyal subjects around the country during his "Third Reign".?
An alternative more practical possibility of course is to convert the new office blocks into affordable housing units..a little far from Dublin perhaps, but long distance commuting is becoming more and more popular, every year now.