A few years back – I think I mentioned it before – I played bass guitar in a rather mediocre pub/wedding covers band. It was an interesting enough experience, in its way, and brought me to such glamorous venues as the Drake Inn (Finglas), Hartstown House (yup, Hartstown) and The Furry Bog in Whitechurch, Rathfarnham (and if you think that particular part of south Dublin is the epitome of faux middle-class respectability, I dare you to check out Whitechurch).
They were the rougher ones. Some smoother places were The Tram, near Guinness Brewery in town, and the Clonsilla Inn. Even Tramco, Rathmines, brim-packed with 500 semi-naked young ones – an awful distraction altogether – was graced with our dubious presence one Paddy's Night. But the more coveted gigs were to be found on a certain day every month, namely the one when the children’s allowance money came in.
There has been much moaning, groaning and gnashing of teeth lately with the rumours that said allowance might be cut by €10 a pop. And no wonder - that’s two pints of beer or a 20-pack of John Player Blue and a packet of peanuts. Parents have a right to be indignant when the "mickey money" is under threat - "mickey" being a quaint Hiberno-English colloquialism for "penis".
In times such as these, however - when we are looking at a 2% VAT increase, yet more taxes for the motorist in a country with a desperately inadequate public transport system, another raft of “green” taxes and all the rest – why shouldn’t a cut in children’s allowance be countenanced? Especially when it is questionable how much of it is actually spent on children?
Having experienced a childhood of Frank McCourt-style poverty myself, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else – but surely, in the present climate, is there not an argument for at least means-testing the children's allowance? And maybe distributing it in such a way that the little brats themselves are the beneficiaries - by means of vouchers or something similar?
Or is this another Irish sacred cow that nobody can even question?
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