Shooting ourselves in both feet

A letter appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner on March 15, 2011. It was written by a typesetter who has successfully tendered for projects for The Royal Irish Academy over the course of eight years. The author was unsuccessful this year and the project was awarded to an overseas service provider who quoted a cheaper price.

The willingness of certain organisations in the public sector to take Irish tax payers money and use it to create employment in overseas economies – at a time when we are unable to pay our debts as a nation and our unemployment rate is 15% – is at the very least absurd.

The Royal Irish Academy (a publicly funded body in receipt of approximately €4 million annually from the taxpayer) is not alone in this self-destructive behaviour. In their defense we will hear, as we do from other bodies undertaking similar action, about tendering rules and will hear ‘we have to buy from the cheapest’ or ‘our budget has been cut’ but it is self evident that if we, the Irish (all working together) don’t do something about our alarmingly high, unsustainable unemployment rate then public bodies had better get used to budget cuts. Every extra person who becomes unemployed is one less taxpayer contributing towards The Royal Irish Academy … and if conditions continue to deteriorate Royal Irish Academy staff themselves are not immune from becoming unemployed.

Much of what is cut from the public sector budget goes to funding social welfare, while at the same time the organisations in question send more taxpayers money to overseas economies, to employ overseas workers. It is absurd, destructive and short sighted. Our county is bankrupt and to survive we must borrow from overseas institutions and financiers at punitive interests rates that we are incapable of repaying … yet we send this ‘expensive’ money back overseas to employ workers in other economies while making Irish workers unemployed and condemning them to life on ‘the dole’ which results in additional expensive borrowings and a self perpetuating cycle.

We all know that the cheapest deal on paper is not always the cheapest in practice. The design business in Ireland has been a frequent victim of this behaviour – and not just in the recent past. Its ability to grow and create employment in Ireland has been seriously diminished.

Irish Examiner on March 15, 2011.

“To the editor,

I recently tendered for typesetting work from the academy, as I have done every year for the past eight years.

In contrast to the previous eight years my tender was unsuccessful on this occasion.

No problem: you win some, you lose some. However, the successful tender for these projects is located in India.

Again no problem, if the work can be done for less in India, they surely should get that work — this is the rule of the globalized market economy which we subscribe to.

However, along with other business losses and the general economic climate, this setback places me in a position where, at 56, I am no longer able to continue in self-employment as I have done for the past 20 years.

I am going to have to go the state and ask them to pay me unemployment benefit.

Is this the same state that offers the Academy grants to fund its excellent work?

I think it probably is.

The state and the Oireachtas: are these not you and I? Is it not our money that is funding these public bodies?

If I am compelled to “sign on”, who is paying for that? It is not some faceless nobody, but my fellow pinned-to-the-collar friends and neighbours.

I do not want to ask my neighbours to pay for my unemployment. I would like to ask my new government: is the cheapest price really the cheapest?

Brendan Lyons
Co Cork”

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