16 December 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The prevailing uncertainty over the future of the euro creates a problematic climate for shoppers and businesspeople in Co Monaghan as we enter into the Christmas period.
The economic circumstances of the country are difficult enough when viewed purely in terms of the recent national Budget and the additional pressures for household expenditure that its provisions have generated.
We have been subjected to tough Budgets in this country before – not just in recent years but back within the living memory of many of us, before what have come to be regarded as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years created a perception of prosperity that has made it difficult to become reacquainted with restraints on our spending.
But the readjustment to less prosperous fortunes has never previously had to be made in a climate where the control of our own national destiny seems to have been taken from us, and where the impression conveyed is that, regardless of how successful our Government is at implementing its strategies for economic recovery, wider European and global forces over which we have limited influence will ultimately determine our fate.
Stress and anxiety are generated in people’s lives when a sense of control is taken from them.
When such uncertainty becomes general in a community or a country, we understandably look to those in positions of leadership to impart some guiding reassurance.
In this context we were impressed this week by comments made by the Chief Executive Officer of Co Monaghan Vocational Education Committee, Mr Martin G O’Brien when his Committee discussed on Monday the implications of Budget 2012 for the education sector (see story page 9).
Committee members were understandably concerned at the potential for adverse impact on VEC services of a number of measures that were introduced.
The ability of second-level schools to guarantee adequate career counselling services in the future was a particular concern – and, given the pressures faced by our young people and the forms in which their own vulnerability to uncertainty can manifest, the decision of the Committee to petition Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn in this regard was a laudable one.
The CEO did not seek to minimise the difficulties the VEC would face in the year ahead – but his attitude that these difficulties can be overcome by negotiation with the Dept of Education and by a spirit of co-operation within schools and centres struck a resolute tone that surely has wider application.
Mr O’Brien has in public forums before set his face firmly against the prevailingly negative depiction of the current state of the nation and has encouraged Co Monaghan to embrace the many positive developments going on in their midst and use them as the platform for future progress.
The enthusiasm with which we cultivate such an attitude in Co Monaghan will undoubtedly have a major bearing on how our communities develop in the years ahead.
And we would respectfully suggest to our readership that the attitude of accentuating the positive has a much more immediate application that is in the vital interests of the county’s commercial well being.
Those in business may have been spared the immediate introduction of the Budget’s VAT increase, but it hovers as a looming shadow over the future viability of many outlets for whom 2012 will be a make-or-break year.
The next ten days will be potentially life saving ones for retail and service providers in our towns and villages.
Cognisance of the importance of this time will surely encourage those in business in the county to maximise the value they offer to customers in recognition of the severe monetary pressures on many families and the reduction in disposable income that has become a general condition of Irish life.
In reciprocation of such efforts, we would exhort our readers to prioritise the support of their local traders when conducting their pre-Christmas expenditure.
Not even the most zealous of ‘shop local’ appeals will completely turn back the tide of Christmas shopping tourism that ease of access to major retail centres both north and south of the Border has created in recent times.
But where good value is being offered locally, local people should avail of it as a sure means of ‘doing their bit’ to guarantee the maintenance of employment and prosperity in their home place.
It is in the same spirit that those purchasing petrol or diesel should refrain from succumbing to the temptation offered by the practitioners of illicit fuel laundering operations – with the additional incentive of depriving those who profit from what is environmentally and commercially a particularly injurious form of criminality of the financial incentive for their odious activities.
Civic and commercial bodies in all our towns have evolved schemes to incentivise local trade this Christmas.
The investment made in seasonal lighting and decoration schemes in some towns has been considerable, and the contribution thus made to enhancing the commercial environment deserves to reap rewards in terms of enhanced trade.
Widely appreciated too will be the decision of Monaghan Town Council this week to forego parking charges from Saturday next until December 28 as a means of encouraging county capital shopping.
The decision represents a change of heart by the Council from its initial stance that it was more beneficial to the town to use the revenue generated in parking fees over the Christmas period for reinvestment in local infrastructure and community developments.
Foregoing the parking income that would otherwise be generated at this busy period represents a considerable contribution by the Council to the effort to maximise local business fortunes.
It deserves community recompense in the form of a responsible attitude by shoppers availing of its provisions who should be mindful not to abuse the parking freedoms that will prevail in the town – and thus contribute to a situation that would adversely affect traffic flow and undermine the intention behind the measure.
Local leadership, after all, deserves local loyalty – and if this formula is successfully applied, a positive and prosperous couple of weeks should lie ahead for Co Monaghan despite the prevailing national and international uncertainties.

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