Researcher addresses ecumenical meeting on
‘Occupy’ movement’s priorities
The Churches in Ireland Connecting in Christ grouping’s Church in Society Forum recently heard political activist, doctoral researcher and resource developer for groups such as Corrymeela and the Irish Peace Centres, Jon Hatch, present his analysis of the Occupy movement.
Explaining his approach subsequently in a written statement to the Gazette, Mr Hatch, an American who has lived in Belfast for the past 11 years, said it was vital that the Churches used their “rich theological resources to help [them] navigate the issues raised by the occupiers”.
Last week’s two-part austerity budget in the Republic saw widespread cuts that will hurt everyone. Given the circumstances, that was to be expected. However, while the increase in the threshold for the universal social charge from €4,004 to €10,036 is a significant measure that will help the low-paid, it is dismaying that those who are economically most vulnerable, including those receiving disability welfare allowance, have had to bear a heavy burden in the cuts. The Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, had a tough task to meet the deficit target demands of the International monetary Fund, the european union and the European Central Bank, but not sparing the most marginalised is deeply concerning, even though the Minister was clearly focused on helping to stimulate employment.
Last week also saw the debt crisis in the eurozone at last reach some conclusion. In a statement released just before the Brussels summit, the Church and Society Commission (CSC) of the Conference of European Churches urged European political leaders finally to take “effective measures which live up to the magnitude of the issue and to put the needs of the people at the centre of the solution”. What became clear after a Thursday to Friday all-night European Council session was that new fiscal regulations would not be part of an amended or new eu 27-member treaty but would be dealt with by the 17 eurozone governments by reaching an agreed ‘compact’, together with other willing eurozoneStates.
In many ways echoing some of the perspectives expressed by Jon Hatch to the Churches in Ireland Connecting in Christ grouping’s Church in Society Forum (report, page 1), the CSC stated: “The present crisis has several root causes. It may be described as a debt crisis fuelled by speculation on the financial markets. In as much as it is clear that States cannot live continuously at the expense of others and of future generations in producing debt, it is also evident that reducing present debt cannot be achieved only by austerity measures which affect the already vulnerable people in our societies – migrant communities, the young and the old, the low paid and the unemployed. The voice of the people protesting on the streets in so many European countries needs to be listened to. The European social model, appreciated on many occasions before, must prove its viability, especially in moments of crisis.”
The way forward in the eu and the eurozone is becoming clearer, but there are still many hurdles to be negotiated, including the question of a possible Irish referendum, and no doubt concerns will be voiced in the months ahead about issues such as the need for growth, the role of the European Central Bank, sovereignty matters and the demands of democracy itself.
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