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Social Justice Ireland submission on Ireland’s National Reform Programme

The Government has today published the National Reform Programme 2018 (NRP) which has been submitted to the European Commission.  In informing this debate, Social Justice Ireland provided two submissions: 

The Europe 2020 report covers three of the five headline targets established in the Europe 2020 Strategy and addressed in the Irish National Reform Programme, namely, employment, education and ‘poverty and social exclusion’.  In each of these areas the report identifies the Europe 2020 target and Ireland’s corresponding headline target, and then:

  • Analyses the current context;
  • Assesses progress (or otherwise) in achieving the Irish headline target;
  • Reviews recent policy decisions and assesses their contribution (or otherwise) to Ireland achieving its targets;
  • Identifies a number of issues relevant to the achievement of the targets; and
  • Makes recommendations on adjusting the targets that Government has set in particular areas.

A partnership approach to the development of National Reform Programmes is envisaged in the Europe 2020 Strategy, involving a range of stakeholders, including those from civil society. The report, therefore, also addresses the issue of governance relating to the consultation process on the framing and development of the Irish National Reform Programme. Suggestions are made on how that process may be improved.

This report has been prepared by Social Justice Ireland drawing on data available from the EU and from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) as well as on on-going work Social Justice Ireland is doing on European and global issues. It also builds on our previous series of reports (from 2011 on) on this same topic. Our findings include that policies pursued over many years resulted in the exclusion of people who already find themselves on the margins of society and in many cases policies are pushing Ireland further away from reaching many of its national targets under the Europe 2020 Strategy. This is of major concern to Social Justice Ireland. It also runs counter to the aim of inclusive growth which is central to the Europe 2020 Strategy.

Implicit in the approach taken in the Europe 2020 Strategy is that economic development, social development and environmental protection are complementary and interdependent – three sides of the same reality. Overall, current trends in Irish public policy are running counter to the promotion of ‘inclusive growth,’ which is one of the three key priorities which underlie the Europe 2020 Strategy.  Inclusive growth is not just about fostering a high-employment economy, it also aims to deliver social cohesion – it is integral to the Europe 2020 strategy and needs to be integral to the response of the Irish Government.

The analysis of the Country Specific Recommendations focused on the three recommendations made by the Commission (Broadening the Tax Base; Targeting Government Expenditure; and Reducing Non Performing Loans) and made a series of policy recommendations in respect of their implementation.