It has now been over three months since the Irish General Election on 8 February, and the citizens of Ireland returned a hung Dáil (a parliament with no clear majority). The continuing talks between political parties and independents to form the next Irish Government constitute a key moment in Irish politics when the direction and priorities for the coming years will be defined. This provide a unique opportunity and responsibility for citizens to advocate for socially just policies.

Bearing this civic responsibility in mind, the Justice Offices of the OLA and SMA have composed a letter – signed and supported by 18 other missionary and religious institutes –  pressing our political leaders to include policies that protect the vulnerable and our natural world. We have sent this letter to the leaders and deputy leaders of the political parties and to independents.

We have drawn upon the expert policy proposals produced by Social Justice Ireland as a guide for our public representatives. Social Justice Ireland’s policy proposals can be found here:

Social Justice Ireland Response to FF-FG Framework for Government
ocial Justice Matters: 2020 Guide to a Fairer Irish Society 

Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles and Society of African Missions Joint Justice Committee,
C/o Society of African Missions,
Blackrock Road,
T12 TD54

We write from a missionary and religious perspective, especially concerned about the impact of environmental degradation on the poorest people in our world. We draw attention to the policy proposals set out by Social Justice Ireland in the attending document. We call on you to work for the inclusion of the following policy proposals in any programme for government to which you give your support. In particular, we note the need for policies that address the causes of climate change, mitigate the impact on those most exposed to harm, and respond to the needs of vulnerable migrants.

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 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 urge 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 to join us in contacting their local TDs and requesting that they prioritise policies that protect the vulnerable and our environment. 

Yours sincerely,

Sr Kathleen McGarvey OLA, Provincial Leader, Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles
Mr Gerard Forde, Justice Officer, Society of African Missions
Mr John McGeady, Justice Officer, Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles
Fr Raymond Husband SSC, Regional Director, Columban Missionaries
Sr. Kathleen Murphy FMDM, Country Leader, Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood.
Fr Brendan Coffey OSB, Abbot, Glenstal Abbey (Order of St Benedict)
Stephen Cummins OP, Promoter of Justice and Peace, Irish Dominican Province
Sr Lena Deevy LSA, JPIC Coordinator, Little Sisters of the Assumption
Sr Kathleen Taylor, Mother Provincial, Little Sisters of the Poor
Sr Ita Moynihan IBVM, Provincial Leader, Loreto Sisters
Sr Vera Magee, Unit Leader, Marist Sisters
Fr Carl Tranter MSC, Provincial Superior, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart
Fr Oliver Barry OMI, Provincial Leader, Oblates of Mary Immaculate
Fr Jeremiah Murphy SAC, Provincial, Pallottines
Sr Julie Watson, Sr Sharon Fagan, Sr Anne Mc Dermott, Sr Aurea Dias, Sr Neneth Robledo PBVM, Congregational Leadership Team, Presentation Sisters
Fr Dan Baragry CSsR, Provincial Leader, Redemptorists
Sr Breda Lalor, on behalf of the Sisters of Christian Instruction (Sisters of St Gildas)
Sr Juli Thottungal, Sister in charge, Sisters of St. Peter Claver
Sr Kitty Ellard IJS, Provincial Leader, Sisters of the Infant Jesus
Fr Martin Kelly CSSp, Provincial Leader, Spiritans
Fr Thomas O’Connor SPS, District Leader, St Patrick’s Missionary Society (Kiltegan Fathers)

You can download an unsigned copy of the letter here which you can sign and send to your local TD. 
You can find contact details for your local TD on the Oireachtas website here