Article from the Feb. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

A quarter live in poverty

by Helen O'Connor

FIGURES RELEASED on poverty and debt in Ireland highlight the real agenda of this government and the nature of Bertie's "socialism".

An EU survey showed that almost 25% are living in households where income is less than 60% of median income (Euro341 per week) - Euro204.60. A third of lone parent households are not able to afford to buy the most basic items such as new clothes and "experience debt problems arising from ordinary living expenses". 10% of people indicated that "there was a day in the last two weeks when they did not have a substantial meal due to lack of money". At the same time the survey shows that the top income group had almost five times more income than the bottom.

The Central Bank reported that last year for the first time, Irish people had more debt than they were able to pay back out of their disposable income. It estimates that personal debt stood at 120 per cent of disposable income at the end of 2004. The main driver behind the increase was the ever-climbing house prices. Housing loans now account for roughly 80% of all lending to households. The Bank warned that consumers could face serious financial risk if interest rates rise sharply or if they lose their jobs.

The two reports show the increasing inequality in Irish society. People on welfare and low incomes cannot afford even the most basic items for living, while even those in work are having to go into massive debt just to house themselves. This at the same time as trade union and voluntary and community groups involved in social partnership claim they are making a difference!

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