Monday, August 12, 2013

Blythe Spirit

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In 1924 Ernest Blythe took a shilling off the old age pension, reducing it from 10/- to 9/-.

He never heard the end of it till the day he died. And no Minister for Finance since has been unaware of Blythe's action and the odium it attracted.

The cartoon, above, which dates from 1924, is by Gordon Brewster from his series in the Sunday Independent. It refers to Blythe's cut, aptly contrasting it with other cuts which were not made at that time.

The cartoon is as relevant today as it was then and it is reproduced here with the kind permission of the National Library of Ireland who currently hold a collection of almost 500 of Brewster's cartoons.

Minister Joan Burton is reputed to be considering a reduction of €10 in the State old age pension for the next budget. While this reduction is proportionately less than Blythe's, its effect, given all the recent stealth taxes and rises in charges, would likely be similar, and attract equal odium in saecula saeculorum.

I'll leave you to contemplate all this against a background from the poet, Shelley, who always had a word for everything.

HAIL to thee, blithe spirit!
Bird thou never wert—
That from heaven or near it
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.


Chorus hymeneal,
Or triumphal chant,
Match'd with thine would be all
But an empty vaunt—
A thin wherein we feel there is some hidden want.


Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know;
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

from Ode to a Skylark

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