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14 February 2002 Edition

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Balaclava economics

Dear Mary,

I was enthralled by your party conference address so much so that I took out all my balaclavas and got ready to burn them, even the silk Armani one that Gerry gave me.

I agree that, "We don't need balaclava economics, destroying the country and holding the balance of power. We can also do without an Irish Soviet Socialist Republic".

I was finally ready to commit myself as you so eloquently asked to the "tried and tested policies of the Progressive Democrats". This would be my new guide, my moral centre.

But before I throw the hand-knitted, pure new wool ballys in the flames, there are just a few questions.

The first is on housing. You see I can't quite understand how the 100% plus increase in house prices during your term in office works to solve the housing problem. You didn't mention this in your conference speech or the fact that, the number of households on housing waiting lists stood in November at nearly 54,000 - up 18% on a year ago.

You talked of pulling people out of poverty. This sounds great, but why is it then that a UN report released last October found for the fourth year in succession that more people live in poverty in the 26 Counties than in any other industrialised state outside of the USA.

You mentioned the record increases in the old age pension, but the CSO household budget survey found that pensioners were making up a greater proportion of low-income earners. Now, nearly 38% of pensioners are in the least well off groups compared with 30% five years ago.

You said that "we have been able to share the fruits of economic growth". Again, fair play, but more than 28,000 individuals or households earned more than €126,984 (£100,000) last year. This is more than four times the same number in 1998.

This is in stark contrast to the experience of the 62% of 26-County adults who earn less than €25,396, the average private sector wage. 33% of workers earned less than €12,690, what a person on the minimum wage working a 40-hour week would earn annually.

I could go on and on Mary, but for now the balaclava stays on. You say that the PDs "will protect your prosperity and your future". Well done, your prosperity and those of your friends is well looked after.

You are a good gamekeeper for the landlord.

Is mise,
Robbie MacGabhann

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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