Forest and ASH clash over further cigarette taxes- Eoghan McNeill

Forest and ASH clash over further cigarette taxesThe price of a box of cigarettes has risen by 10c in today’s budget. A 50c environmental levy has not been introduced on cigarette packs, nor has Vat been reduced on nicotine replacement packs.

Anti-smoking lobby, ASH Ireland, and smokers’ rights group, Forest Eireann condemned the measure alike.

John Mallon – Forest Eireann – speaking to News Anois said that any rise in price will “send people to the streets” for counterfeit cigarettes.  This not only diverts funds from the revenue, but criminalises smokers. He said that the government are not helping Irish people lead healthier lives, but “creating a criminal problem”.

He went on to say that the measure is a simple revenue generator: “the government don’t give a shit about our health.”

Wally Young of ASH Ireland said that the organisation would support “any initiative to demoralise smoking”. He said that these initiatives are supported “with the health of the nation in mind”, not extra tax revenue. His organisation, although supportive of price hikes for cigarettes, were disappointed with the “mere” 10c rise.

Dr. Ross Morgan, Chairman of ASH, argued that the issue of tobacco smuggling must be treated as a separate, criminal issue.

The 10c rise was also criticised by the Irish Heart Foundation, who deemed it “paltry”.

Smokers outside DIT Aungier St. did not think that the price increase will have any effect on student smokers.

Gary O’Shaughnessy, Marketing, hates that he smokes. He would support any measures to make the country smoke-free, but can’t see the worth of rises in excise duty.

He said that “it doesn’t matter how expensive cigarettes are; they’ll always be too dear.”  He also said that he’ll never visit Moore Street’s counterfeit cigarette vendors, reasoning that “smokes are bad enough when you know what’s in them.”

Daniel Deasy, Tony Jameson and Sean Cullen, thought that the move was not conceived to wean smokers off cigarettes, but to generate extra tax revenue.  The three Marketing students have no plans to try counterfeit cigarettes, but have all switched to “rollies” – partially due to cost reasons.

“2014 Budget could be a bridge too far”-President of DITSU

“2014 Budget could be a bridge too far”-President of DITSU - Hannah PophamPresident of the DIT Student’s Union Glenn Fitzpatrick today spoke out about the hardship which budgets have had-and will continue to have on students. The incremental hikes each year in the student contribution fee and the cuts, in both maintenance and postgraduate grants, have made acquiring third level education increasingly more costly. Fitzpatrick warned that the forthcoming budget could have considerable consequences on those already struggling within third level education: “I genuinely thought that we had reached breaking point a few years ago but students and their families plough on, determined to protect their right to an education and a viable future. Any further cuts could genuinely make Third Level education a bridge too far for many.”

GRANT CUTS The SU President detailed how even under the current budget, the average weekly grant payment is €84, which is “significantly lower than Jobseeker’s payments-what the Government deems the lowest amount of money that they expect people to be able to get by on.” He warned that the current grant is inadequate for student needs: “It’s not going nearly far enough for many students and in more extreme cases (which are on the rise), it’s crippling.” He also cautioned that the pressure students are under to financially support themselves while undertaking a degree can often have a negative effect on their academic performance: “We see students working longer hours in treacherous working conditions in order to pay for their education, yet the impact of those treacherous conditions actually negatively impacts on their studies, cancelling out the reason they sought employment in the first place.”

STUDENT CONTRIBUTION FEES Despite the fact that: “Students are feeling the pinch from every angle at the moment, be that fees, rent prices, grant cuts, lack of decent part time work and the fact that the supporting families are struggling…”, he said that hikes in the student contribution fee are unavoidable. “Unfortunately, the staggered increase in fees has been signed off with the Troika and has essentially been non-negotiable.”

STUDENT APATHY In light of the low turnout at the recent USI budget protest two weeks ago, Fitzpatrick has claimed that these hardships have had a negative impact on student motivation: “There is definitely a wave of apathy out there that is hard to tackle. Many students do not see the political system as a mechanism for change.”

UNEMPLOYMENT AND EMIGRATION Additionally, Fitzpatrick expressed concern that the 2014 Budget could potentially exacerbate Ireland’s problem of graduate emigration: “The choices for young people will be unpaid internships, precarious work or emigration. Young graduates with amazing potential are often over-qualified for what I would consider to be derisory options so our best and brightest may simply leave our shores.”

Hannah Popham

Youth Affected Worst

The National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) released a statement claiming that young people are the most affected in this year’s budget. The managing director, Mary Cunningham, accused the government of treating young people as a “soft target” by reducing the Jobseekers payments to €100 per week for under 25’s. “We need to work to provide more opportunities for these young people, not cut their supports. We are urging the Government to reconsider these proposed cuts in social welfare payments to young, unemployed people,” said Mary Cunningham.

Lauren O’Halleron

Budget 2014 – An End In Sight?

A short video statement on the coming Budget was released yesterday by Finance Minister Micheal Noonan.

It comes just one day before the release of the 2014 Budget, the eighth Austerity Budget since 2008.

Noonan says in the statement, ” Job creation is the number one priority”.

However the positive message of the video is somewhat dulled by the terrible camera angles and dead-pan tone of Noonan’s voice.

The face of the next budget really knows how to embody austerity.

Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin has also issued a video of his own in the coordinated preparation for Budget 2014 which will be announced tomorrow.

Howlin’s statement again is positive saying, “I believe that this budget can convince people that there is an end in sight”.

The comments, though positive sound foreboding. It may help people see an end in sight,  but how happy they will be with this end is yet to be seen.

Eoghan Regan