Analysis & Comment

Employment numbers have been a major “good news story” in Ireland’s economic recovery and Budget 2020 is an opportunity to take steps to ensure these positive trends continue. Social Justice Ireland has, in our recently launched Budget Choices 2020 submission, identified a number of areas for investment.

On the surface Ireland is outperforming most countries in the EU when it comes to levels of economic growth and employment.  However, a closer analysis tells a different story.  If we are to address the housing crisis, tackle the long waiting lists in our healthcare system and meet our climate targets then Budget 2020 must be economically sound and socially fair.

The European Commission last week (05 June 2019) published its Country Specific Recommendations for Ireland as part of its European Semester work programme.  The three recommendations for 2019/2020 focus once again on the need for Ireland to broaden the tax base, as well as supports for low work intensity households and targeted investment.  These are areas on which the European Commission have made recommendations previously and, while Ireland has made some improvements in recent years, we have a long way to go.

Regulation should have consumer protection at its centre rather than the aim of increasing market participation. Before engaging in any new regulatory processes, the Government should ensure that the rights of its citizens are protected, including the right to a reasonable standard of living with access to basic services at a reasonable cost.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) this week published its fifth monitoring report on Ireland.  In it, the ECRI point to a number of improvements since its previous report was published in 2012, such as the establishment of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the recognition of Travellers as an ethnicity, and the revised Migrant Integration Strategy, however problems of racism persist particularly for Travellers and those asylum seekers living in Direct Provision centres.

The Irish Pension system is in need of significant reform. Unfortunately policymakers have limited the scope of this reform to introducing Automatic Enrolment and very little else. In any format and by any measure, Auto Enrolment will greatly increase the (already significant) cost to the Exchequer of a private system that is failing to achieve its goals.A forthcoming conference, organised by the Pension Policy Research Group, will look at aspects of Auto Enrolment and the implications for the Irish pension system.

Social Justice Ireland wishes our newly elected MEPs every success.  This is a pivotal time for the future of the European Union and MEPs play a key role in ensuring that social and environmental sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals are at the heart of Europe's future.   To this end we have formulated Five Key Policy Asks for our MEPs in conjunction with Trocaire. They are:

  1. The Elimination of Poverty
  2. The Championing of Climate Justice
  3. Policy Coherence on the SDGs
  4. Delivery on the European Pillar of Social Rights
  5. Supporting an international treaty on Business and Human Rights

The local and European elections threw up a variety of diverse issues many of which seem to be at odds with each other.  Concerns among voters about the impact of climate change and about the future of agriculture and livelihood of farmers may seem incompatible at first glance, but yet they are both very important issues to different sectors of society.  What these elections remind us is that a comprehensive policy framework is required to make progress on these issues and deliver a better future for everyone.

Social Justice Ireland regrets that to date Government has not committed to supporting European moves to introduce a Financial Transactions Tax. The tax offers the dual benefit of dampening needless and often reckless financial speculation and generating significant funds. Reports have estimated a net revenue yield of between €320m and €350m per annum in Ireland alone, while according to the United Nations, the amount of annual income raised would be enough to guarantee to every citizen of the world basic access to water, food, shelter, health and education. This tax has the potential to wipe out the worst forms of material poverty throughout the world.

Defined as a set of conditions where “individuals or households are not able to adequately heat or provide other required energy services in their homes at affordable cost”, energy poverty affects almost 50 million people in the European Union, according to a recent report from the European Energy Network.  In Ireland, the number of people who went without heat due to financial constraints in 2017 was almost 393,417 (CSO SILC, 2018).  Data released by Eurostat this week (21st May 2019) show that Ireland had the highest increase in gas prices and the fifth highest increase in electricity prices in the EU.  Without adequate measures to tackle the causes of fuel poverty, what next for families going without this basic necessity?

Recent publications

Click here to read Budget Choices 2020, Social Justice Ireland's submission to government ahead of Budget 2020. You can also watch a video of the launch of Budget Choices 2020, where we go through the key details of our submission.

In this edition of our National Social Monitor, Social Justice Ireland looks at the budgets of each of the 31 Local Authorities and analyses where the money was spent, and where it wasn’t, to assess the priorities of local government. 

What does your Local Authority value?  What progress is being made at local level to tackle the causes of issues like housing, job sustainability and climate change?  Following the publication of Social Justice Ireland's latest National Social Monitor - Local Issues edition, check out our Local Authority profiles, a one-page overview of each Local Authority area and how it spends its budget on your behalf. 

What are the latest data and trends on poverty in Ireland and why is life on a low income the norm for a large proportion of our society?  Social Justice Ireland’s annual Poverty Focus examines the nature and experience of poverty in Ireland and sets out a series of policy solutions. 

This report was compiled by Social Justice Ireland in light of the Europe 2020 Strategy and its high-level targets, and of Ireland’s National Reform Programme. It is the latest in a series that has tracked Ireland’s performance for many years.

Recent podcasts/videos

Watch the videos from our 2019 Global Justice Day Seminar here. Professor Charles Clark of St John's University in New York and Catherine Kavanagh of University College Cork launched our Sustainable Progress Index 2019, and Coalition 2030 Coordinator Jennifer Thompson responded.

Every year, Social Justice Ireland is the first organisation to produce a comprehensive analysis of the national budget. Our document is published less than 24 hours after the Minister for Finance stands up in Leinster House to give his speech. Click here to read our 24-page analysis, or to watch a video of our Budget Response launch seminar at Buswells Hotel from the morning after the Budget.

Watch Social Justice Ireland's Budget Choices Seminar, which was streamed live from Buswells Hotel on Tuesday June 5th.

Dr. Seán Healy, Colette Bennett and Eamon Murphy talk through our budgetary proposals for 2019, including our analysis of the various crises and infrastructural deficits faced by Ireland, and our revenue-raising measures that can help tackle them.

Social Justice Ireland marks UN World Day of Social Justice each year with a seminar looking at Ireland's progress to date in meeting our responsibilities under the Global Goals. You can view video footage of the seminar here.