Article from the Mar. 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI
The people the Celtic Tiger forgot
by Councillor Mick Barry
THREE REPORTS published recently show high levels of poverty in the state even in the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger boom. A UNICEF report on child poverty showed the Republic of Ireland with the fifth highest child poverty rates in the 26-member OECD. Child poverty in this state stands at 15.7% topped only by New Zealand (16.3%), Italy (16.6%), the US (21.9%) and Mexico (27.7%). A household was defined as living in poverty if its income was below 50% of the national median income.
Meanwhile the Social Inclusion Unit of Dublin City Council produced a report entitled Inclusion is Everybody's Business which showed that the proportion of the capital's population living in conditions of the highest level of relative deprivation have increased by 2.4% in the period 1991-2002.
Referring to a phenomenon it described as "inter-generational deprivation" the report identified 15 areas of Dublin where unemployment was 25% or higher and poverty was "endemic". The report highlighted high levels of relative deprivation in Finglas, Cabra, Ballymun and Priorswood.
Cork City Council's Social Inclusion Unit produced an annual report that included a "Poverty Profile" of the city based on statistics from the 2002 CSO census. More than 8,000 households in Cork city had no central heating at the time of the census and more than one-third had no car. There were 13 polling districts in the city where more than 50% of the population aged 15+ had left school aged 16 or under and whole areas of the Northside where 1% or less of the population had a university degree. Moreover, Cork city contained 11 of the state's 88 unemployment blackspots and all of them were on the city's Northside.
Despite the official status of the reports, two of them criticised government policy for contributing to this situation. The Dublin City Council Social Inclusion Report stated that "recent changes in the eligibility criteria for the rent allowance will increase hardship". While the UNICEF report pointedly noted that Ireland had reduced its share of social spending (the proportion of GDP devoted to government's social transfers) by 5% in the period 1990-2000.
However, the reality is that these reports and statistics represent an absolutely crushing indictment of Ireland's political establishment. Fianna Fail, the PDs, Fine Gael and Labour have all been in office in the last 15 years and the country is still scarred by shocking poverty despite the experience of the biggest economic boom in the history of the state.
Not only do these reports and statistics represent an indictment of the political establishment, they also stand in savage condemnation of the social system defended and represented by them - capitalism. If this is the best capitalism can do, then there is no stronger argument for the building of a genuine socialist alternative and for the socialist transformation of society.