Nothing highlights the rotten priorities of this government more than inflicting funding cuts to vital services for vulnerable women and children on one hand while leaping to the defence of Apple to preserve Ireland’s reputation as a haven for tax dodging multinational corporations on the other.
Last month’s closure of a refuge in West Dublin for women and children fleeing domestic violence is a case in point. Run by the Respond housing charity, the Cuan Álainn refuge in Tallaght will be forced to close its doors before Christmas after the government agency Tusla (Child and Family Agency) refused to fund it.
Currently home to 7 women and 16 children, Cuan Álainn is a second stage refuge for women and children out of immediate danger but in need of continual support. The refuge has been operating at full capacity housing 71 women and 96 children since opening in 2012.
No longer able to afford the 350,000 euro a year funded entirely from its own resources, Respond’s appeal for emergency government funding also led to an approach to the Minister for Children, James Reilly, but no help was offered.
Ned Brennan, the charity’s CEO, said that with no state assistance the service would be forced to close by December 18 and that “without this service, women and children may now have to return home to an abusive environment or be forced to enter homelessness.” Tusla has itself been badly underfunded by the government despite an enormous workload.
Although a record 43,000 children were referred to its child protection and welfare services last year, Tusla has struggled with a budget deficit of 5.1 million. Due to chronic staff shortages, more than 8,300 children hadn’t been allocated a social worker or a written care plan. There are problems with the government’s flagship agency itself.
The CEO Gordon Jeyes enjoys a salary of 196,000 a year, the number of senior managers working for Tusla outnumbers its counselling and psychology staff by four to one and it spent 36 million on legal costs (including 600,000 euro in fees last year to a legal firm established by Fine Gael ex-Minister Alan Shatter) compared to 1.5 million on therapy costs.
Many of the agencies providing domestic violence services such as Women’s Aid have also suffered cuts of up to 20% in their budgets despite answering 46,000 helpline calls last year. According to Safe Ireland, nearly 11,500 women and children received support from domestic violence services in 2013 but almost 3,500 requests for emergency accommodation were refused last year because refuges was full and struggling with funding cuts.
Research carried out recently by Dr Julien Mercille of UCD revealed that even rape crisis centres across the country have not been spared with stealth cuts of over 1 million euro between 2008-14 resulting in front line services cut and crucial work downgraded or eliminated.
None of this is of any concern to Fine Gael/Labour. They are far too busy protecting the corporate interests of the super-rich and their massive tax avoidance activities. Perversely, Enda’s government is currently pulling out all the stops to defend US tech giant Apple from being found guilty by a European Commission investigation of paying little or no corporation tax on the vast profits it generates in Ireland.
Accounts for one of its Irish entities, Apple Sales International, revealed that the multinational corporation got away with not paying $850 million in Irish corporation tax from 2004 to 2008. Apple executives admitted to a US senate hearing into its tax affairs in 2013 that it had a special tax deal or ‘sweetener’ with the Irish government and that it paid a top tax rate of just 2% on $74 billion of sales outside North America over the previous three years thanks to notorious tax loopholes here.
If the European Commission ruling due shortly goes against it, the government would be required to recover 10 years of back taxes from Apple worth billions to the country. Rather than admit their role in this scam and take the money due, Fine Gael/Labour are planning to ‘use all legal options’ to defend Apple’s tax avoidance all the way to the European Courts of Justice.
They’ve even hired one of the most senior tax barristers in the UK to defend the theft of taxation of up to 2.5 billion euro by a company valued at $750 billion and enjoying profits of $51 billion last year. This money could be used to build social housing for the homeless.
It could be used to scrap the hated property tax and water charges. It could be used to repair a damaged health service. And only a fraction of it would be needed to fund services for women and children desperate for refuge, protection and dignity. That would require putting the needs of people before the demands of capital but this government only deals in rotten priorities and rotten Apples.