There is no doubt that our country is in deep financial trouble but the government doesn’t seem seriously interested in helping struggling young couples laden down with mortgages on houses that are worth far less than when they were purchased at the height of the housing boom madness.

There has been a lot of talk about the predicament that young people find themselves in, especially those who have lost their jobs, and appeals have been made for them not to lose their homes. In fairness to most Judges, they have been very compassionate and, for the most part, have taken the side of the home owners against the banks and other lenders seeking repossession orders.

But at the end of the day, the law will have to take its course and, when all the tut-tutting and expression sympathy is laid aside, the government has done nothing to bale out the people who paid over the odds for their homes including a huge amount of tax that went straight into bulging government coffers.

The banks and building societies, who helped cause all the trouble, have been ‘dug out’ out to the tune of billions and, fair enough, Minister Brian Lenihan puts forward a good argument as to why that should be so.

But no hard and fast help has been given to the home owners. They have been given or promised nothing that they can go to bed at night and say to themselves that, perhaps, things are not that bad and a chink of light at the end of the tunnel has appeared. The taxes of several generations of Irish citizens will be required to pay off our debts and, at this stage, the word ‘billion’ rolls off our tongues as easily as if we were talking about a hundred euro.

A couple of weeks ago, things were so dire there wasn’t a euro to spare, according to the government, then the Greek crisis blew up in all our faces and, immediately, the government was able to come up with €1.3 billion for its share of the aid package. The government was obliged to come up with the money so it borrowed some more and the sky didn’t fall in.

Whey then cannot our government borrow again and, for instance, wipe €30,000 to €50,000 off the mortgages of first time buyers who were ‘conned’ at the height of the property boom and are now in negative equity. I don’t know how much it would cost but it would probably be a drop in the ocean as far as the overall scenario is concerned and would surely be welcomed by most fair-minded people.

The government was able to do it for Greece because it had to and they should now do it for their own but they probably won’t because they don’t have to.

Confirmation now the ‘Sacrament of Exodus’

There was much interest last week in the call from a County Carlow priest for the Sacrament of Confirmation to be suspended for a trial period of several years. Fr Paddy Byrne of Bagenalstown referred to Confirmation as ‘the Sacrament of Exodus’ and said many young people now saw it more or less as the end of their childhood religious practice.

Over 80 per cent of young people being confirmed did not return to church for Communion the following week, he said, and the reality for most priests was that the next time they saw those young people was when they presented a child for baptism or came to get married.

He believed the Sacrament of Confirmation needed to be seriously evaluated as it was unhealthy that while 100 per cent of six class students received Confirmation only 5 per cent of First Year secondary students attended Sunday Eucharist on a regular basis. Calling for the Sacrament to be discontinued for a period of two years in order to facilitate the building of a new vision, Fr Byrne insisted that Confirmation should mean much more than providing photo-opportunities for local newspapers and supporting businesses that rented out bouncy-castles. Whether or not you agree with him, there is certainly food for thought in his comments.

How now brown trout!

Local rod fishermen and women will be interested to know that a 16-year-old, 10-lb brown trout was caught by an angler on Hudson Bay near Athlone last week. Fire-fighter Colin Shanley was out just before dawn and snared the fish from the bank with his rod using a homemade tie. He hooked the trout at 7.10am and it took him two hours and ten minutes of serious, muscle-tearing effort before he eventually landed his prey. After being weighed and photographed, the fish was released back into the water to fight another day.

Forbidden sights!

A young female teacher was writing on the blackboard for her class of six-year-old boys when she heard a loud giggle. Turning around she saw little Pat still smirking and asked him what was the matter. “It’s your knickers, Miss, I just saw the bottom of your knickers”, said Pat.

“You impudent little brat”, said his teacher angrily, ”go and see the principal this minute and you are not to come back to class for the rest of the day.”

Miss Matthews continued writing on the blackboard until she heard another loud giggle and this time the culprit was little Tommy. “I’m sorry, Miss, but I saw your frilly knickers as well”, he blurted out.

Miss Matthews was raging. “Get out of my classroom immediately and you tell the principal that you are not to return for a whole week”, she fumed.

Tommy’s departure had a sobering effect on the class and there were no further interruptions as the teacher continued to write on the blackboard. Then, just as she finished, Miss Matthews dropped her chalk and bent down to pick it up. She heard a loud gasp and swiveled around quickly to see little Johnny heading for the door. “Where are you going, I didn’t give you permission to leave the room”, she said crossly. “Miss”, said a red-faced Johnny, “you don’t have to say anything. After what I’ve just seen I know my schooldays are over for good.”