Gap between rich and poor is widening

Research claims top 20 per cent actually got better off in the last five years

The gap between Ireland’s rich and poor has widened dramatically since the economic crash, according to an analysis from Social Justice Ireland.

The analysis by the independent think tank and justice advocacy organisation also claimed the top 20 per cent of earners actually increased their disposable income over the same period.

The analysis showed the the gap between rich and poor was wider when cuts in services and increased charges are included in calculations.

Fr Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said Ireland’s poorest 10 per cent of the population lost 18.4 per cent of real disposable income in the years since 2008. In contrast, he said, the richest 10 per cent of the population lost 11.4 per cent.


Brunt of adjustments
According to Fr Healy, the statistics showed low and middle-income Ireland have borne the major brunt of adjustments over the past five years. Budgets introduced under the tutelage of the troika were regressive "taking more as a percentage of income from those who have least".

“The real impact was even more regressive because this calculation does not include the impacts of reductions in services and increased charges introduced in these years, which impact disproportionately on the most vulnerable.”

While the top 10 per cent of earners saw cuts in their disposable income, Fr Healy maintained the richest 20 per cent of the population actually saw their share of the total disposable income grow significantly in this period.

'Increased inequality'
Research and policy analyst with Social Justice Ireland Michelle Murphy said the Government did have choices, and could have introduced fairer budgets. "Instead the choices they did make increased inequality in Ireland.

“Ireland had to reduce its budget deficit in recent years but research produced by the IMF shows that how Ireland’s Government chose to do this was always likely to produce greater inequality and higher levels of unemployment.

“Other options were available to Government but they choose to protect the rich at the expense of the rest of us.”

The organisation also claimed take-home pay of TDs rose by €848 while social welfare rates rose by €162 over the past 25 years. In this period Ministers’ take-home pay rose by more than €1,533.

Social Justice Ireland argued there is no justification for reducing social welfare rates. “There is no way a TD, Senator or Government Minister can justify voting for a cut in welfare rates given these developments over a quarter of a century. Welfare recipients are among Ireland’s poorest and most vulnerable.”

The full study can be seen at

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist