- News stories
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- The Altered Images Exhibition
- European Blind Union launches the 2011 Braille Contest
- Féach takes to the Piste at St Johann
- Girls allowed @ IT Camp Dundalk
- Hilary's run 24@work
- Home care- what are your options?
- Irish Paralympics Success
- Make do and Mend
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- NCBI Key Fundraising Events and Activities for 2011
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- Reading the Gift of Genius
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- The Founding of NCBI, 1931
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- NCBI News Winter 2011
- Public Policy and Campaigns
This issue of NCBI News appears as we enter the 80th anniversary year of our foundation on the 10th of March, 1931. This issue also appears as the posters for a general election look down on a nation in the grip of the worst down-turn in the Irish economy since the founding of the state.
Four more years of austerity (and possibly many more) lie before us as the country measures up to the repayment of our national debt by means of increases in taxation and swingeing cuts in the provision of public services. December saw us fall victim to the harshest budget in one of several such budgets yet to come.
Even the blind were singled out for a second reduction in their Blind Persons Pension in as many years. A petty decision taken by the Minister for Social Protection Éamon Ó Cuív means that once again the most vulnerable in society have been unfairly targeted. The inclusion of the 1,444 recipients of the Blind Persons Pension in the general round of welfare payment cuts was campaigned against by NCBI but to no avail. Opposition parties decried the disgrace of what had been done to welfare recipients, and the “blind” were pointed to as unfairly treated. History has a way of repeating itself. The general election will take place on February 25th 2011, almost exactly 87 years to the day— February 22 – 29th 1924 when Dáil Éireann debated and shamefully enacted into law the Old Age Pensions Act which amended the Old Age Pensions Acts of 1908 and 1919 and the Blind Persons Act of 1920.
Effectively, this Act reduced all pensions by one shilling a week for all pensioners
under 80 years of age. For this, Ernest Blyth, as Minister for Finance in the Fine Gael Government rightly earned the odium of posterity — that odium was also earned by the 45 TDs who voted for a measure which was a shameful act in the history of Irish society and one that retarded the state’s duty of care to the welfare of its older and blind citizens.
It heralded the standard of treatment of blind and other special consideration groups for the next 50 years. Much of the time and efforts of the NCBI from its founding in 1931 was taken up with this issue, and the non-payment or reduction in allowances to qualifying people under the 1920 Blind Persons Act and the Old Age Pensions Act of 1924 caused untold hardship to the older blind population of Ireland.
It will be interesting to watch in the flutter down of the election posters to see if the tears of lamentation shed for the blind at budget time are wiped away in the speedy undoing by a new government of something they lambasted the previous government for, when framing the 2011 budget.
The blind are “watching” and waiting for the restoration of their meager income in the form of the blind persons pension and blind welfare allowance — which was also cut by a similar 4%.
Memories are long; history repeats and teaches. The elect who will be happiest in the flutter down of their posters will do well to consider this. Let them consider too the ‘chance’ which ‘happeneth to all’ in the words of Ecclesiastes 9:11
— ‘I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all’.
Let them be wise in their election, but let them be considerate too. Their duty of care is not to the swift, nor to the strong; but to the weak and the vulnerable, the poor and the marginalised — yes, even to the blind. Yes, and let them remember too the words of Gertrude Stein:
‘Let me recite what history teaches, history teaches’.