Thursday, 18 December 2014

Roscommon in recession ... – The Councillors’ call

Job losses every day, collapsed consumer confidence, wage cuts and shorter working weeks the norm, banks in crisis and small businesses under extreme pressure…it’s all gloom and doom on the economic front in Ireland 2009. In this special Roscommon People focus, SEAMUS DUKE speaks to all twenty-six members of Roscommon County Council to get their views on the recession – and how and if we can get out of it…


Cllr Sean Beirne (FG)

“There is no doubt that things are very bad at the moment. There seems to be a total lack of economic activity and that is making things worse. Even the people who have money are not spending it because they fear for the future. 

  “The biggest problem we have now is unemployment and that will be a huge problem now and into the future – and it is imperative that we deal with that problem immediately.

  “With regard to the banks, there has to be a deal ‘hammered’ out on mortgages. Up to recently there were two people working in most households, but now, at least one of those people are out of work and the chances are that their mortgage is higher than the value of their house. 

  “We will have to ensure that the banks do a deal with these people so that they can afford to pay back their mortgages at a reduced rate. Then if things improve in years to come it can be reviewed again, but there is no point in ‘hammering’ people who simply cannot afford to pay.” 


Cllr Valerie Byrne (HAC)

“Things are so bad that people are afraid to buy a daily newspaper anymore… the news is so bad every day. I also feel that there are not enough ideas coming from the Government on how we can get out of this.

  “The banks will have to allow small companies to stay in business because we have no huge employers in County Roscommon so it is vital that the small businesses stay in operation. 

  “I would also like to see more support for the farming community as it has been largely left to one side in recent years. Farming is the backbone of our community here in Roscommon. 

  “I hope the cuts that are coming will not affect education too much because education was hit hard already. I am also worried that it seems that middle and lower income people are getting hit all the time. That is very unfair. I think that those in the higher income bracket are getting away with it again.” 


Cllr Domnick Connolly (FG)

“The Government should not have started by ‘hammering’ the public sector workers. They should have started at their own door before they hit anyone else. There are people earning €200,000 and €300,000 a year and the current downturn is not having any impact on them at all. 

  “They should have started with their own departments and their own salaries and the spin doctors that are employed in every department and by the semi-state bodies. Anyone earning €300,000 a year will not miss 10% of their salary but a person earning €30,000 will certainly miss 10% of their salary. 

  “The Government should have started at the top and worked down and not started at the bottom as they have done. Another thing that really annoys me is people taking pensions while they are still working. That should not be allowed to happen.” 


Cllr Martin Connaughton (FF)

“The economy is bad alright and I certainly hope that not too many more people will lose their jobs. There is a recession here and worldwide too and hopefully everyone will pull together to get us out of the situation that we’re in. 

  “There are a couple of plusses, in that interest rates are so low and that the cost of fuel is not as high as it was, but things are very serious at the present time.” 


Cllr John Connor (FG)

“I have to say that I am frightened by what is happening and the pace of it and it is hard to know where to turn at this stage. The unemployment figures that we have heard in the past week are truly shocking and the pace of the downturn seems to be gathering pace all the time. We have never seen anything like it here in this country and one can only hope that the Government are making the right decisions to try to get us out of this mess. 

  “I think that opposition politics will have to go out the window because the whole thing is far too serious. I’m glad in a way that I’m getting out of public life because we are facing into some terrible years ahead with really tough decisions to be made. We all have to get together and if the Government were to act on sensible suggestions from the opposition it might help the situation. 

  “There will always be a role for politicians to give a lead and the role of politicians is now more important than it ever was.” 


Cllr John Cummins (FF)

“It’s a really difficult situation and it is hard to know what can be done about it either. I am meeting people who are losing their jobs every day of the week and it is shocking to see it. There are decisions that have to be made to try and improve the situation but it is very hard to get agreement because none of the solutions will ever get total agreement – and that’s the difficulty. 

  “We are in unchartered waters and no-one knows what to do. All the Government can do is take the best advice it can get and then implement policies to try to improve the situation, but of course none of those decisions are palatable. We have to get agreement because the future of the country is at stake. 

  “The worst thing that is happening is in respect of the unemployment rate. We will have to get re-training and job initiative schemes going to try to get people back to work. That’s the most important thing.” 


Cllr Tom Crosby (Ind)

“From my point of view, as an Independent voice on the Council, I hear from all political persuasions and people that have an interest in politics and people that don’t. Clearly there is a lot of fear out there and when you see the number of people losing their jobs at a phenomenal rate, hundreds and thousands on a weekly basis, it’s frightening and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

“Employment in our county is one of the lowest in the country, it’s very, very frightening and negative. Going forward, I think we all have to put our shoulders to the wheel and I think people are willing to do that once the most vulnerable aren’t affected.”


Cllr Michael Creaton (FG)

“There are so many people losing their jobs now and the depressing thing is that they have little chance of getting anything else. I thought that the Government made a huge mistake taking €300 million out of the capital budget. The capital projects are about the only way I know at the moment through which jobs would be created and it is very short-sighted mistake to withdraw that money out of the economy. It is often said that out of every €100 million spent on capital projects the state gets 46 milion back in taxes, etc. so it is a very foolish policy to withdraw the money.

  “As far as I can see Social Welfare payments are going to cost the country a fortune in the coming years so we should be looking at ways of employing people.” 


Cllr Rachel Doherty (FF)

“We have a national crisis, no doubt about that. There will have to be a totally new social partnership model drawn up now after all this. Too much time has been wasted by the Government in my view, but at least they are beginning to act now and I hope it’s not too late.

  “The banks will have to get back to normal ‘bread and butter’ lending like they did in the past. The banks had their noses in the trough and we have all paid dearly for it. We need re-training for people who are out of work but we have to make sure that they have other jobs to go to. 

  “I feel sorry for councillors that will have to go out looking for votes this year. They have had no hand, act or part in all this.” 


Cllr Trevor Finneran (FF)

“These are extraordinary times no doubt, but it’s a global phenomenon. When you see China and the USA in recession you can see how we might be affected here as a small country. I know that public servants have got bad news this week but there has to be stability brought to the public finances. There is a possibility of 500,000 people being unemployed into the future.

  “People are terrified about the future of their jobs and the Government will have to bring in incentives to employers to keep those who are working now in their jobs. 

  “I know what it’s like personally, being in the auctioneering business, because it has gone down so badly in recent months, but we have to try to be positive 

and  the opposition politicians should work with the Government to get us out of this economic mess.” 


Cllr Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Ind)

“I wish the Government would stop revising the economic figures downwards every few weeks. They should sit down and get a grip of the situation and say it for what it is – a disaster. I think that we are heading for 500,000 people on the dole before the end of the year and I don’t want to be talking things down. I’m just being realistic.

  “The whole thing was caused by the silly property boom that was based on nothing really. I have to say that these are terrifying times really and I fear for the future and especially the future of my children – but we cannot just lie down and take it. 

  “We have a young, well-educated population and there is hope in that fact alone. We could have a great country if the right people were in government, but sadly that is not the case.” 


Cllr Gerry Garvey (FG)

“It’s pretty bad at the moment and it is getting worse daily. There are a lot of people losing their jobs and there is a mood of doom and gloom out there,  make no mistake. 

  “We relied too much on building and property and we have paid for it dearly. We will have to re-examine what we can do with regard to the prioritising of  industry and re-training people and trying to get them back to work again. 

  “We will have to scrutinise every single area of public expenditure and especially the capital programme. As far as I can see we will have to see what is worth tackling and what is worth dropping.” 


Cllr Anthony Geraghty (FF)

“Everyone is being affected by what’s going on at the moment – private and public sector workers. The Government will have to take on the banks now because it is they who are largely responsible for this terrible mess. 

  “I realise that the problems are not confined to this country but that in fact there is a huge global recession. We have got to try and keep as many people as we can in jobs and the banks will have a huge role in all that…making sure that employers have the capital to stay in business.” 


Cllr Charlie Hopkins (FG)

“The whole situation is a disaster and there is no light at the end of the tunnel as far as I can see. From what I can gather it would appear that 2010 will be even worse. 

  “The tragedy is that it is all young people that are losing their jobs, which is just terrible. They are looking at all these fat cat bankers coming back from their holidays with lovely tans and they are returned to their jobs as if nothing has happened. It’s disgraceful. 

  “There are people in dire financial straits now who are wondering how they are going to survive. They are concerned at all the price rises in recent times. Then there is no possibility of third level fees coming in next year too.”


Cllr Ernie Keenan (FG)

“It’s very serious and I have no solution and I don’t know that the Government have either. They should have told us six months ago and made their plans then and not be revising it every single day.

  “The ordinary people of the country are being made to pay for the sins of the developers and bankers who are getting away scot-free and are giving the rest of us the two fingers. The country was being run from a tent at the Galway Races for many years – and that’s the simple facts of the matter. The big shots in that tent were the people who got us into this mess. 

  “My heart goes out to young couples who bought a house and now (find that) maybe the two of them are unemployed. It’s very sad for those people.”


Cllr John Kelly (Ind)

“We have got to do a deal with the banks so that they can ease up on people who are in financial trouble – having lost their jobs – or people who have negative equity in their houses. The taxpayers have bailed out the banks so it’s time now for the banks to bail out the people who are in trouble. 

  “The Department of Social Welfare is going to be under fierce pressure now with the huge numbers of unemployed people….then there are so many people looking for special assistance because of the financial situation. I don’t know how we are going to get out of this mess. 

  “I know the recession is a worldwide one, but we are far worse off here in Ireland. It was the golden circle in the tent at the Galway Races which was responsible….Fianna Fail, the property developers and the auctioneers. The only thing that is gone now is the tent. The attitude of those people is still the same.”


Cllr Paddy Kilduff (FF)

“It’s the worst (economic situation) that I have seen but remember that we have seen recessions before in the 1970’s and 80’s and I suppose it was time for another recession now. People have had it so good for so long and expectations are very high now. I know that it’s no consolation to people who have lost their jobs to hear that, but these things have gone in cycles and hopefully we will come out of it again too.

  “With regard to the banks I know that there are a lot of people in trouble with repayments but I genuinely think that the best way of dealing with that situation is to go in and tell them what the situation is. In most cases they (the banks) will be sympathetic. 

  “The local elections are coming up later in the year and it will not be easy for Fianna Fail candidates, but I have confidence that the Government can meet the problems that are facing the country. It will not be easy but hopefully we can recover again soon.”


Cllr Orla Leyden (FF)

“The first people to take a hit were the self-employed people, smaller contractors, painters and builders, their big concern is that they don’t have the same stamp entitlements and they are not entitled to employment benefit or assistance. They have found that they didn’t have an independent source of income and the work is hard found and they were the first casualties.

“A couple of businesses have closed and there is greater pressure on retailers. There is a lot of anger at the fact that the senior people in the banks have created a lot of this and they are getting away with it and ordinary people are paying and there’s the whole issue of the high profile tax exiles that aren’t paying any tax.

“As regards the pension levy, people feel that it’s not proportionate and a lot of younger people are paying high mortgages and they are finding it difficult to get through this.”


Cllr Michael Mulligan (SF)

“Things are very bad, no doubt. We have to make sure that we look after our own local industries and especially farming. We have always been a farming country and we will have to go back to that. We should be self-sufficient in food and vegetables in the country…

  “I would also like to see some radical solutions being tried. Why don’t we take over the Corrib Gas field and keep it for ourselves and not for the big companies? Another thing is that there is enough bog in west Roscommon and that general area to support a peat-fired electricity power station. I know it wouldn’t go down too well with the likes of Mr. Gormley (Environment Minister) but look at the jobs that it would create. 

  “The situation is so bad that there has to be some radical solutions found to deal with our problems. It (the current situation) was created by the golden circle that we in Sinn Fein have been highlighting for years. We were told we were wrong but we were proven correct in the long run.” 


Cllr Eugene Murphy (FF)

“We are in a very, very serious situation and it would seem that it is going to get worse in the months ahead. I am very conscious of the sacrifices that everyone is making. I know that the pension levy on public servants is very severe but I cannot see any other way out. 

  “TDs, Senators and councillors are going to have to take a substantial cut now as well as everyone else because it is clear that the country cannot support the political system as it exists at the moment – it’s as simple as that.

  “I’m very concerned at the situation as it stands – and I am normally a very positive person. Everyone will have to pull together to get us out of this mess…Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, and Labour and everyone else too. 

  “There was a time when you heard that there were people who were a burden on the state. Now it’s the state that is a burden on the people.” 


Cllr Michael McGreal (FG)

“Here in west Roscommon I am shocked at the number of young people who are now out of work. There are some that emigrated last year but they came back at Christmas because there is not much work in England either. 

  “I feel so sorry for three groups of people in particular, namely council workers, teachers and guards, people who kept the country running for the past three decades and who never made any waves and now they are paying the price and it is very unfair on them. They are being punished for the mistakes made by the banks and others. 

  “The Government should allow some of its major building projects to go ahead. For instance the new civil offices in Roscommon would cost €26 million to build. But look at all the employment it would create and all the money it would generate in PRSI and income tax and VAT. The Government are tackling this crisis with their heads in the sand.” 


Cllr Ollie Moore (FG)

“The situation is dire and it seems it will get worse before it gets better. It would seem to me that counties like Roscommon are going to be really hard hit. There will be cutbacks everywhere and it’s going to be harder to get work done in areas like south Roscommon, because roads budgets, etc. will be cut back. 

  “I hope that the Government can come up with a solution because it is terrible to see so many young people losing their jobs.” 


Cllr Paula McNamara (HAC)

“The situation is frightening – it’s very serious altogether. The worst thing of all is the huge level of unemployment. I wonder where we are going to get the money to pay all these people social welfare payments. 

  Every time you turn on the radio or the TV it seems to be getting worse. I think that the situation is far worse than the Government is letting on and that we are going to be in a far worse situation before there is any sign of it getting better. We can only hope and pray that the Government can come up with a plan to get us out of where we are because it is very, very serious.” 


Cllr John Naughten (FG)

“The situation is a cause of great concern, that’s for sure. People in the public service are rightly up in arms at last week’s annoucement because it is the middle and lower income earners that are being most affected by the new rules, while those on big incomes are getting away almost scot-free.

  “The banks will have to be tackled. I see where there is a proposal to cut all the pay of the top executives in the banks by 25%. That’s a joke. Some of these people are earning over €2 million to start with. The Government will have to take a strong hand with these people because it is the banks who are to blame for a lot of what’s going on.” 


Cllr. Tony Waldron (FF) 


*****


Cllr Tony Ward (Ind)

“Things are very bad and the outlook is bleak….there’s no doubt about that. The announcement with regard to the €2 billion in cuts is all very fine but I think it will be out of date by the end of the year the way the unemployment rate is going. We are going to have to pay it all out in dole money. 

  “With regard to the politicians and the bankers it is time that there was a national salary cap. I don’t think that anyone should be earning over €150,000 per year. The carry-on of paying people millions of euro per year and then receiving bonuses on top of that cannot go on…they will have to limit the pay of the top people. 

  “Years ago the people who were at the top in banks were there to protect the customers and the shareholders but they lost the run of themselves and became greedy. When you see that people were borrowing over €200 million from their own banks then it is time to look out. 

  “The Government should have started their campaign at the top and not at the bottom, which they seem to have concentrated on this time. It’s the easy targets that they have hit.”