RECENTLY arriving just on time, with a sense of relief, I jumped onto a train from Heuston back to Portlaoise. Finding my seat, I found myself sitting in front of a couple who, similarly, seemed relieved to arrive just on time. They both had brought with them some food. It was the smell that alerted my hungry body – a bag of chips with lots of vinegar. My look was, perhaps, rather longing as they generously offered me some chips. Soon, not only did they share their only meal that day, but their story of visiting a very sick family member living with cancer and being treated in a Dublin hospital. A story fuelled with love. Living with limited resources, paying a costly return ticket. Overwhelmed with worry for their loved one and finding in their faith a resilient hope that Christ would nourish their fragile needs with healing.
A recent statistic from the St Vincent de Paul Society highlighted that 10% of citizens here live with the reality of food poverty. That is, skipping meals, going without breakfast or dinner, perhaps several times every week, because resources are so limited. Sadly, food is beyond what is possible in the daily chaos of budgeting, debt, mortgage repayment and unemployment.
The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has joined with Trócaire and Social Justice Ireland in calling on the Irish government to opt into the scheme to introduce taxes on the value of financial derivative contracts and any trade in shares or bonds. Bonds that allow the tiny few to accumulate wealth in the midst of massive cost to the vast majority of citizens, who continue to pay the cost of feckless, unregulated, speculative capitalism. This tax on the financial sector would, they say, allow it ‘‘to shoulder a tiny fraction of the burden it has created.’’
In a letter to The Irish Times, jointly signed by John Guiney, SJ, director of the JCFJ; Justin Kilcullen, executive director of Trócaire; and Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, they said that it would be in the interest of the government to apply the tax at a time when it is cutting social services, reducing overseas aid and increasing taxes on ordinary citizens.
It is estimated that the tax will raise around twenty billion euro and the representatives of the three Catholic social justice groups said it presented ‘‘a unique opportunity to combat social spending cuts and at the same time finance global priorities, like the fight against hunger and climate change.’’
Concerned that the government was planning to opt out of imposing the tax which 11 EU member states, including its three larges economies, have indicated they will impose, they said that ‘‘scaremongering from financial sector lobbyists predicting a flight of capital should Ireland introduce the tax, should be seen as just that.’’ They said that any decision to opt out of imposing the FTT would be most disappointing.
These are truly difficult days when the burden of financial budgeting is such a real issue to all families. I marvel at the total selfless generosity that is a signpost of a recovery, not in economics, but testimony to the hope personified in the human spirit. A spirit that whispers hope: ‘‘Our greatness is defined not in monetary terms, but in the power of our love and kindness.’’ Share your chips and friendship. Listen with love. Encourage with compassion. Our light is brighter than the shadows of fear and uncertainty.
This week, friends, may we have the courage and generous love to respond to the needs of others. May we trust in the God of plenty whose generous living presence continues to nourish and heal.