Anti- austerity arguments are not limited to Sinn Fein, but a proper debate about the real impact of cuts is needed.

Anxiety and anger over budget plans including welfare cuts continue on both sides of the water. Amid the attacks on George Osborne for “ Tory austerity” in his  plans to cut public  spending  by a further £20 billion or 40% for unprotected  areas, a rough comparison of public spending as a share of GDP  suggests that  UK and Irish spending by this measure will remain roughly comparable to the end of the decade. I float this out in the hope of attracting informed comment.  Fintan O’Toole spells out the Irish position in the Irish Times.

According to the projections given to the IMF by the Department of Finance, spending (leaving aside interest payments) will fall as a proportion of GDP in the lifetime of the next government – from 34.7 per cent of GDP to 31.3 per cent in 2019. On the hybrid of GDP and GNP developed by the Fiscal Advisory Council, public spending drops from 40 per cent this year to 35 per cent in 2019.


Make of the ” hybrid” what you will. GNP includes overseas earnings some of which  is presumably taxable but a good deal arising from FDI is not.

In the UK at 39.5%of GDP  for 2015-16,  public spending is set to reduce to 35.2% in 2019-20.  In the UK the amount paid out for benefits and pensions, amounts to £183bn (26% of public spending). On top of that, £30bn is paid out in tax credits each year by HMRC.

In their political gaming for 2016, Sinn Fein and other critics should note this.  Objections to welfare cuts are by no means limited to them.

The government is set to face its first Conservative backbench revolt over the Budget, after MPs voiced concerns about plans to reduce tax credits by up to £1,000 a year.

The Times reported the chancellor will face “real anger and frustration” around the changes, which mean 3m families will lose on average £1,000 a year, according to research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

The MPs are also concerned the changes will put families off going to work – despite pledges by the government during the last parliament to “make work pay”.

In an analysis of the July Budget, the IFS found cuts to tax credits will “only affect working families” and “protect the poorest”. The analysis suggested the changes will “weaken incentives for families to have someone in work”

On the Republic’s projections O’Toole argues convincingly.

Austerity measures that were understood – and just about tolerated – as temporary exigencies in an emergency period will become permanent. And that’s when the real trouble will start for the Irish political system. We need to start talking honestly about all of this now.

Whatever the effects on the political systems across the islands, a little more honesty would go a long way. In Northern Ireland particularly, intelligent debate is non-existent.

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  • murdockp

    Any taxpayer earning more than £10 per hour in employment (£375 pw / £1,500) pcm) or £18,000 per annum should support welfare cuts. You cannot have a society where a huge proportion of the population refuses to work and is happy to take benefits which is in many cases can lead to a family having an income higher than a family where adult members work.

    Even under communism, all able bodied members had to contribute to the communal cause. The founders of the Irish free state or the early planters sent over from Scotland all did a hard days work to establish themselves and provide for their families yet now many people choose to lounge around contributing nothing to society and then there is the fraud…..

    I am sick to death of seeing DLA cars in Newry driven by the able bodied, for me all these fraudsters are doing is stealing money from the genuine DLA claimants who deserve far more support than many of them are currently receiving.

    For a country where religion is used by the majority of the population as an identity badge, we have an ingrained culture or welfare fraud / taking from the state, cash in had working that is the polar opposite of the religious beliefs we are meant to have.

    Sinn Fein / DUP should want more for thier people than a life on benefits. We need JFK statements asking people what they can contribute to their country rather than what these people can take from their country.

    As an secular agnostic, I find it all very bizarre to observe, I would have thought building the nation state should be a key value of SF/DUP.

  • Virginia

    In the United States the population of 330 MILLION live with a welfare system which limits aid to five years in lifetime total. Think that through. Brilliant how they surpass the UK in all things given this fact no?

  • kensei

    Is this sarcasm?

  • kensei

    “In making this selection, especial reference must be had to the usual mode of living of the Independent Labourers of the District in which the Union is situated, and on no account must the Dietery of the Workhouse be superior, or equal to, the ordinary mode of subsistence of the labouring Classes of the Neighbourhood.

    Want of attention to this essential point, has been the cause of much evil, by too frequently exhibiting the Pauper Inmtes of a Workhouse, as fed, lodged and clothed, in a way superior to Individuals subsisting by their own honest industry, thereby lessening the stimulus to exertion, and holding out an inducement to idle and improvident habits.”