Tax and Welfare Commission offers chance to tackle issues free from political pressures

Niamh Moloney: Public consultation key to delivering greater social inclusivity

As the poet Amanda Gorman wrote in her inaugural poem The Hill We Climb: “Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.”

We may have weathered much of the storm that was the coronavirus pandemic, but other squalls loom on the horizon. The pandemic has, after all, taught us that regardless of our relative wealth or wellbeing, our fates are intertwined and our systems interconnected. The certainty of the demographic swell that faces us, the inevitable approach of digital disruption and automation, the crashing waves of the climate crisis are issues that affect us all as a collective and we must unite to face them.

One way a country can steel itself against challenges such as these is to look inwards at the very structures most fundamental to implementing the social and economic aims of government – its taxation and welfare systems.

The taxation system provides the investment we make as individuals and as businesses for the public services we use – from our roads and bridges, to our hospitals and schools. For those of working age, our social welfare system serves to temporarily replace income lost to periods of unemployment, injury, disability, sickness or maternity. And where earnings from employment are insufficient to avoid poverty or social exclusion, our system intervenes to provide a floor below which income will not fall. These are the most important instruments that we have to provide a safety net, to provide income redistribution, and to pay for the needs of our society.


Our country has four times in its history convened an independent group to consider the Irish taxation system and prepare recommendations for Government to enhance and strengthen the taxation system to meet the challenges of the future. This time, however, things are somewhat different.

In April, I was asked by the Government to chair the Commission on Taxation and Welfare. The commission has been established, not to look at tax in isolation, but rather to consider how both the taxation and welfare systems can support economic activity and promote increased employment and prosperity, while ensuring that there are sufficient resources available to meet the costs of the public services and supports in the medium and longer term.

Members of the commission – some 14 in total – are drawn from a broad cross-section of relevant backgrounds including taxation, welfare, economics, law and broader civil society, each bringing a mix of applicable skill sets and backgrounds to the table.

It is important to distinguish the annual budgetary process and the longer-term strategic view that my fellow commission members and I have been asked to take. This work goes beyond any specific budgetary cycle and is focused on making a set of recommendations that we believe will ensure that Ireland has sufficient and stable revenue for public services over the longer term, while also seeking to ensure a fully functioning, sustainable labour market, active inclusion and participation in society.

The structure of this commission offers a unique opportunity to tackle a broad range of issues across both the tax and welfare system. We are undertaking this work as an independent body, unencumbered by political pressures, stepping back and taking a long-term perspective.

However, we cannot do this work in isolation. To fulfil this important challenge, we need a variety of perspectives, constructive challenge and external expertise. We need to hear from as many people, groups and organisations as possible to ensure a diverse range of views inform the development of the report of the commission, which is due in July 2022. These responses will be critical to assist us in our work in the months ahead. Your Vision, Our Future is the public consultation of the commission. You can make your views known at

Continuing to build the best versions of these systems benefits not only ourselves but also the generations yet to come. If I can paraphrase another poet, this time our own Eavan Boland, our future will become the past of other women and men.

The commission’s work and the views of the public we gather will help us to come to a set of recommendations as to how best to deliver well-designed, coherent and straightforward taxation and welfare systems. This will help us address the challenges we face and support continued economic prosperity, greater social inclusivity and a fairer carbon neutral society and economy into the future. The public consultation closes on January 7th and we want to hear from you as we collectively work on this unfinished nation together.

Prof Niamh Moloney is chair of the Commission on Taxation and Welfare