The talks to form the next Irish Government are ongoing, and so far there are clear signals that the next Government will include a mix of larger parties, smaller parties and independents. Importantly, these days, weeks and even months constitute a key moment in Irish politics when the direction and priorities for the next several years are being hammered out. This provide a unique opportunity for citizens to press for socially just policies.
In response to the ongoing exchange of letters between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party, Social Justice Ireland has released a set of policy recommendations. The Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles (Irish Province) support these policy proposals and the practical steps they set out to establish a just, humane and sustainable society. We come from a missionary and religious perspective, especially concerned about the impact of environmental degradation on the poorest people in our world. We call on the TDs and Senators in Government formation talks to work for the inclusion of the following policy proposals in any programme for government that their party supports. In particular, we note the need for policies that address the causes of climate change, mitigate the impact on those most exposed and least equipped to protect themselves, and respond to the needs of vulnerable migrants. Therefore we particularly support the inclusion of the following policies in any programme for Government:
Protecting our environment
Money from the carbon tax increases should be ring-fenced to help fund a Just Transition. Additionally, the next government should move to shift the burden of taxation, where possible, away from productive activity and onto activity which reduces social wellbeing. In this regards, there is ample scope for pursuing measures that would enhance sustainability whilst raising revenue for government, including levies on single-use coffee cups (raising €100m in a full year) and the introduction of an Aggregate Levy of €2.50 per tonne (€75m in a full year) to encourage recycling of materials.
Promoting social justice and sustainable development for low income countries
The new government should use its influence at an international level to encourage favourable treatment of countries of the Global South in relation to debt-repayments. We support the permanent cancellation of all external debt payments due from developing countries in 2020 and 2021, with no accrual of interest or charges or other penalties, and the provision of additional emergency finance that does not create more debt.
Improving the quality of life of vulnerable migrants
The factors in migration are complex and varied, but an ecological perspective tells us that environmental degradation plays a major role both directly and indirectly. Any programme for Government should improve the quality of life for vulnerable migrants. Government should increase the weekly allowance for children in Direct Provision to €31.80 in line with the QCI rate and expand the recently revised Student Support Scheme for Asylum Seekers. We support further review of the criteria if there is no significant increase in take-up. Such moves would cost no more than €2 million annually. In the long-term, there must be a commitment to move away from this system that has long been unfit for purpose.
We encourage all citizens, community groups, and faith groups press their local politicians for socially just policies and the creation of a sustainable and humane society. We also encourage you to explore the work done by Social Justice Ireland and to make use of the policy proposals they have produced.
Social Justice Ireland’s Initial Response to the draft document between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to facilitate negotiations with other parties on a Programme for Government:
Social Justice Matters: 2020 guide to a fairer Irish society:
Visit Social Justice Ireland at https://www.socialjustice.ie/