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Austerity is discredited, its credibility undermined, its moral basis unethical. Ireland must change direction

Both the academic and moral basis for ‘austerity’ have been discredited and its credibility has been undermined. 

  1. The ‘austerity’ approach being implemented in Ireland is economically unviable and morally unethical.
  2. Ireland needs a fundamental change of direction, a new vision of its future and an integrated policy framework setting out a pathway towards that vision.
  3. It is time to put a stop to short-termism and to tackle debt, taxation, services, governance and borrowing in an integrated and sustainable manner. 
  4. The future can be different and can be paid for.

The academic basis for ‘austerity’ has been discredited and its credibility has been undermined. The moral basis for austerity has been unethical. Ireland must change direction. This is the core message presented to the Troika by Social Justice Ireland at a meeting held on April 29, 2013.   

In a detailed report prepared for the meeting and titled ‘Framework for Solidarity and Sustainable Recovery’, Social Justice Ireland point that at a moral level the current austerity approach is unethical because it was those on low and middle incomes who have borne the brunt of the adjustment rather than the rich and powerful. Austerity, in practice, is also a failure because it has simply produced a fractured society, a weak economy and persistently high unemployment..

While Ireland hit all its targets on reducing borrowing and repaying bondholders, poverty, unemployment and social exclusion have all risen dramatically.  Low and middle income people have had to bear a disproportionate part of the burden.  Vulnerable people have seen their incomes fall, their bills rise, their services decimated and their future prospects become bleaker by the day.

Social Justice Ireland believes that an alternative vision of Ireland’s future is urgently needed.  This vision should prioritise the common good and provide economic and social security for all while ensuring that all policy decisions are focussed on delivering a future that is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially.

Social Justice Ireland's  Framework for Solidarity and Sustainable Recovery  presented to the ‘Troika’ sets out  a vision for Ireland’s future and outlines the five key policy areas that must be addressed urgently if Ireland is to move towards a just and sustainable future.  These areas are macroeconomic stability, taxation, social security, governance and sustainability.

This is a framework that would promote real recovery and would also be based on and secure solidarity.  If Ireland is to experience real recovery then all five areas must be addressed simultaneously and in an integrated manner.  It is not sensible to try and resolve Ireland’s present crisis by addressing one or two of these issues and omitting or postponing the remainder.  It is time to put a stop to short-termism. We must ask ourselves as a society where we are right now and, more importantly, where we want to be in the future.

Key issues in A Framework for Solidarity and Sustainable Recovery

(Details of the Framework are set out in the table below.)

Macroeconomic stability

Ireland’s economy will only expand again if the debt burden is reduced.  This is essential if Ireland is to have a viable futureIt is also essential if job numbers are to grow at the rate required to reduce unemployment and involuntary emigration.


Taxation should be increased towards the European average. There should be a focus on shifting taxation towards wealth and financial transactions tax, ensuring those who benefit the most from Ireland’s economic system contribute the most, in the most efficient manner.

Social protection

The social services infrastructure and social welfare payments should be protected. Increased investment in the domestic economy is urgently needed to provide employment and much-needed infrastructure.


Government must engage more extensively with all sectors of Irish society, particularly those most affected by cuts in particular areas.  


Sustainable development is development which meets the needs of the present while not compromising the needs of the future. Consequently, the present generation has responsibilities towards future generations in this regard. Financial, environmental, economic and social sustainability are all key areas that Ireland must prioritise. 

A Framework for Solidarity and Sustainable Recovery

1. Ensure Macroeconomic Stability

2. Move Towards  Just Taxation

3. Enhance Social Protection

4. Reform Governance

5. Create a  Sustainable Ireland

Reduce Ireland's debt burden

Bring tax-take to European average

Protect services by adjusting deficit reduction

Reform policy evaluation

Combat climate change

Financial and fiscal stability

Increase tax level equitably

Combat unemployment

Develop a rights-based approach

Balanced regional development

Investment programme

Reduce income inequality

Reduce poverty

Promote social dialogue

Indicators of progress and wellbeing

Social Justice Irelands full Briefing can be accessed here