A Fairer Future requires A New Social Dialogue Building a Better Future Social Justice Ireland’s Annual Social Policy Conference

Posted on Wednesday, 18 November 2020
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“Ireland, and indeed the planet, face several crises ranging from pandemic to pollution to poverty; a situation where ‘business as usual’ can mean only social and environmental catastrophe.  We have reached a point where adoption of a new Social Contract is surely a necessity. All sectors of Irish society should be engaged in an ongoing Social Dialogue to decide how best to proceed” –stated Dr Seán Healy, in his opening address to Social Justice Ireland’s annual policy conference today (Wednesday, 18th November). 

 “Ireland faces significant challenges in the coming decades, among them the housing and health situations, an increasing older population and the transition to a cleaner, greener economy. If Ireland is to succeed in addressing the challenges we face, the pathway to doing so must be founded on consensus, must be well-managed, and must be properly evaluated.  Ireland would greatly benefit from having a social dialogue structure that would engage all sectors at a national level” – Dr Seán Healy. 

“Social dialogue ensures that the various sectors of society are involved in developing mutually acceptable solutions to problems and challenges that we face.  We need to get beyond growth and markets and recognise that, while they do have a role, they are only part of the solution. All sectors of society – young and old, urban and rural, businesses, trade unions, farmers, community/voluntary, social inclusion and environmental – should have a voice in deciding how these challenges will be met” – Dr Seán Healy.

“Once Covid-19 has been defeated, we face a major challenge: to decide if the experience of recent months and our response to it should shape the future of our society.  Now is the time for creative thinking about what society should look like when the pandemic has passed” – Colette Bennett, Research and Policy Analyst, Social Justice Ireland, speaking at the same conference.

“If Government is to deliver on its own Programme for Government commitment on a new social contract it is crucial that we face up to the radical reforms that are required.  What we see clearly now is that what was claimed to be impossible prior to the pandemic is taken to be the only sensible course of action today” – Colette Bennett.

“Even at the earliest stages of this pandemic, the critical value of having an effective public sector was illustrated. The focus of recent decades on constantly reducing the role of the public sector has been shown to be wrong.  We must invest in our public services and infrastructure to ensure they can meet our needs throughout the lifecycle”– Colette Bennett.

“A new Social Contract will also require us to give climate action the priority it urgently needs. It would take a new approach to the world of work and recognise that much of the work done in society goes unpaid, under-recognised and undervalued. A new Social Contract must recognise that our tax and welfare systems are not fit for purpose in the twenty first century.  The social welfare system and the income tax credits system should be replaced by a Universal Basic Income which would be far more appropriate for today’s economy” – Colette Bennett.

“Over and over again Ireland has given priority to addressing the economy first, believing that once a thriving economy has been delivered the country will have the resources required to deliver all other desirable outcomes. What this approach fails to recognise is that a thriving economy cannot be built without investment in decent services and infrastructure, without just taxation, without good governance and without sustainability at its core” – Dr Seán Healy. 

 “The present moment presents an opportunity that must not be missed. Government should have confidence, in this post-COVID world, that the general public would welcome new thinking in how our economy and society is structured”- Dr Seán Healy.

“People who have been involved in shaping decisions are far more likely to take responsibility for implementing these decisions.  Ireland has for too long been afflicted by a state of affairs whereby we understand the issues, we know what needs to be done to improve matters, yet we find ourselves failing to take the correct steps. It is time to change that.  We need a new Social Dialogue” – Dr Seán Healy.