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Policy issues concerning Public Services

As we navigate through the global crisis caused by COVID-19, it is clear that rural areas will bear a significant social and economic impact over the long-term.  The challenges that faced rural Ireland prior to the current pandemic such as higher poverty rates, lower incomes, fewer public services remain, and new challenges have emerged, not least the impact of a potentially prolonged period of unemployment on areas that were already struggling.

If a country is setting social, economic and environmental goals, it is important that taxation policy supports these goals. Ireland needs to have a real debate, not just about the levels of services and infrastructure it wishes to have in the coming decades, but also how these are to be financed. Just Taxation is one of the five key priority areas examined in Social Justice Matters: 2020 guide to a fairer Ireland. This report analyses ‘Just Taxation’ as one of five key priority areas required to build a fairer Ireland in an integrated and sustainable manner. 

If a country is setting social and economic goals, it is important that taxation policy supports these goals. Ireland needs to have a real debate, not just about the levels of services and infrastructure it wishes to have in the coming decades, but also how these are to be financed.   Read Social Justice Ireland's Election Briefing on Taxation for an outline of a number of key challenges facing Ireland and some policy proposals that should be in the next Programme for Government.

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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.

Access to justice is a basic human right, however in order to achieve equality of access, there must be a balance of power on both sides.  In a legal context, the balance of power almost always rests with those who can afford counsel.  Redressing this balance requires the availability of free and low-cost legal services to those who need the advice of a qualified solicitor or barrister but who cannot afford the costs associated with it.    

Libraries provide an important social outlet and educational role in Ireland, with 17.2 million visits recorded in 2016 by 754,748 members across 330 branch libraries and 31 mobile libraries.  Operated by Local Authorities, they play an important role in ensuring access to information, reading and learning material.

An outline of the policy challenges relating to Public Services and our proposed policy response is contained in Social Justice Matters: 2019 guide to a Fairer Irish Society.  The chapter is available below.

Ireland’s social contract is broken.  The legitimate expectations of citizens are not being met.  This is most obvious in areas such as housing and homelessness, a two-tier healthcare system, an ongoing failure to provide rural broadband and high levels of poverty and social exclusion, especially among children.  2017 is the first year of a new century for Ireland and now is the perfect opportunity to develop a new and radical social contract for Ireland’s second century. 

Ireland is making poor progress when ranked against the other 14 countries in the EU-15.  The new Sustainable Progress Index, published  by Social Justice Ireland to mark UN World Social Justice Day, February 20, 2017, shows the scale of the challenge facing Ireland under the headings of economy, society and environment.

Economic recovery has yet to be experienced by large numbers of people in Europe.  Many remain excluded as they continue to lose out in employment, education, healthcare, poverty and related services.  This is undermining the confidence many people had in the European project because they see the EU constantly giving priority to economic issues ahead of social challenges.

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