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See the Videos and Papers from our 31st Social Policy Conference - From Here to Where?

New Programme for Government must address rampant inequalities in Irish society

Social Justice Ireland publishes a proposed Programme for Government as part of their 31st Annual Policy Conference in Croke Park

A new programme for Government must prioritise a vibrant economy, decent services and infrastructure, just taxation; good governance and sustainability to create a more equal and fair society. Social Justice Ireland has produced a proposed Programme for Government that addresses these issues as part of their Annual Policy Conference, ‘From Here to Where’, held on Tuesday, 13th November 2018 in Croke Park. Speakers at the conference included: Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit; Christine Bohan, The Journal; Emmet Kirwan, Poet and Actor; Tony Fahey, UCD; Theresa Reidy, UCC; Cara Augustenborg, Friends of the Earth and the Social Justice Ireland team.

Previous programmes for Government have, invariably, given priority to economic growth over everything else.  While many of those programmes have been very successful at generating economic growth, they have not succeeded in having those resources transformed into the levels of service and infrastructure, of equality and inclusion, that most Irish people would support or desire.

Despite being one of the richest countries in the world with one of the fastest growing economies, Ireland today has 780,000 people living in poverty. A quarter of a million of these are children and over 100,000 of them has a job. There are over 700,000 people on waiting lists for healthcare; over 500,000 homes in rural Ireland without broadband. Over 11,000 people are homeless with close to 80,000 households in need of social housing.

Social Justice Ireland’s proposed Programme for Government strongly advocates for a focus on:

  • A vibrant economy
  • Decent services and infrastructure
  • A just taxation system
  • Good governance
  • A sustainable society

Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit – Learning from the past to shape the future

“The very existence of exceptional tax breaks to large asset owners is entirely antithetical to classical liberalism is the opposite of the cornerstone of enlightenment ideals on Tax work and reward. That Paschal Donohue and Leo Varadkar to invoke enlightenment ideas without any seeming knowledge appears nothing else than a misappropriation of history.

They rightly realise there is no philosophical basis for their core policy positions related to work and taxation so instead they simply pretend there is a basis by falsely appropriating the ideas of some revered enlightenment philosophers of the past and hope nobody calls them up on it.”

Christine Bohan, The Journal - What the next Programme for Government can learn from newsrooms

“I would suggest that this is a time when institutions - countries, social media publishers, newsrooms - should not just be focusing on growth as a metric, but instead of more qualitative metrics. For Ireland, this would be questions like is this a fair country? Is this an equal country? Are people getting the opportunities that they need to build a life? Are they happy?”

Tony Fahey, UCD: Worse off than their parents? The rising generation of private renters

“A boom in private rented housing and a corresponding decline in home ownership are remarkable developments currently underway in Ireland. These developments are represented by increases in the share of households living in private rented accommodation from under 10% in the early 1990s to nearly 20% today and the likely though not yet inevitable prospect of a further increase in that share to perhaps 40% in twenty years from now. If this growth continues in its current form, it is likely to cause many young adults to be worse off than their parents as far as housing is concerned.”

Theresa Reidy, UCC - Power Monopoly: Central – local relations in Ireland

“Over the decade from 2008, strikingly little attention has been given to one of the most significant anomalies in the Irish system of governance, the centralisation of power and decision making at national government level. Ireland was one of the most centralised states in Europe when the economic crisis struck and it has emerged from the crisis with this power imbalance almost completely intact.”

Cara Augustenborg, Friends of the Earth - With 12 years left to limit climate catastrophe, Ireland needs to govern the clock

“Ireland’s troubling increase in greenhouse gas emissions is largely due to a booming economy, which (unlike most other EU countries) failed to decouple from fossil fuel consumption when it had the chance. Government policies to promote intensification of beef and dairy farming; to prioritise road construction over sustainable transport options, and to continue burning peat and coal for energy are leading the country in the wrong direction with respect to climate change.”

Emmet Kirwan, Poet, Actor, Playwright

“The work itself and the writing I do hopefully has a political tone. If you have a narrative, people can’t attack that in the same way they can an individual who speaks out. I’m a walking analogy for free 3rd level education. One of the best things any Irish government has done for social mobility is free 3rd level education. We have to resist all efforts by any government to reintroduce fees. When you get working class kids and other minorities, going to university it’s not simply a way to escape their communities it allows them to bring the lessons they learn back to those communities. Student debt can be a real control mechanism, people are less likely to riot and complain when they have a large student debt hanging over them."

Representatives of the National Youth Council of Ireland

Four representatives of the National Youth Council of Ireland presented thier views of what the priorities should be for the next Programme for Government.  Topics included Participative Democracy; Rights and Experiences of Undocumented Migrants; Digitalisation and Digital Literacy; Disability; and Poverty.

Seán Healy, MIchelle Murphy, Eamon Murphy and Colette Bennett of Social Justice Ireland 

“While there is considerable discussion around what kind of Ireland we want to live in, very little attention is given to one of the key policy instruments that might actually get us there – the Programme that will be negotiated by the next Government. The makeup of the next Government can only be speculated upon, but whichever parties and politicians comprise it, the Government of the 33rd Dáil and its Programme for Government will have major impacts on Irish society and will be in a position to shape the future of this country for a considerable time to come.There is, therefore, a clear need to ensure that the Programme for Government of the 33rd Dáil is focused on creating a more just and sustainable Ireland.”

To read the full text of the book of papers, From Here to Where? click here.

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