Many Irish people feel that the burden of austerity is not being shared equally
Opinion: Vincent de Paul client profile has expanded out to people in employment and people with unmanageable debts
More charges and tax increases will simply drive more and more people to poverty, again something we do not want to see as we approach 2016 and the celebration of a proclamation that “guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens” and that promises to cherish “all the children of the nation equally”.
The cumulative impact of austerity measures to date has been devastating. The SVP strongly opposes any further reductions in social expenditure as the people we assist have suffered enough.
The plan to put in place an economic programme to run to 2020 announced by Mr Noonan recently must include a road map for recovery for all of Irish society so that people are protected and can retain their hope and optimism for the future.
However, an economic plan is not enough; it must be accompanied by a social plan that outlines how Government will allocate the resources necessary to tackle unemployment, poverty, social exclusion and disadvantage.
Too many people, the services they rely on and their opportunities have been sacrificed in the name of economic recovery. Impossible demands have been made of those with the lowest incomes and least resources. Any plan for Ireland must address these issues so that those who are struggling are reassured that we are heading towards a positive future.
Social justice must be at the centre of a nation that cares for its people equally. That has largely been ignored, while political and economic issues have been the focus of debate. Now is the time to discuss the changes needed and to prepare for a time when – hopefully – the nation begins to emerge from this difficult period.
There are no easy answers but that is no reason not to commence the debate. Everyone should be involved.
What better time than now, as we approach the anniversary of the 1916 Proclamation, to examine our progress in achieving its signatories’ aspirations in terms of equality and social justice?
Geoff Meagher is national president of the Society of St Vincent de Paul