Archive for February, 2016

Time to vote. Time to end poverty for good.

EAPN Ireland Election Blog No. 10

By Robin Hanan,  EAPN Ireland (with thanks to Paul Ginnell for detailed analysis of party manifestoes)


Time to votedoor hanger

As the election campaign draws to a close, EAPN Ireland urges all of our members and friends to do three things:

  1. Vote tomorrow (Friday 26th)
  2. When you vote, think about the implications for people affected by poverty and for a more or less inclusive Ireland
  3. Encourage your family and friend to do the same


How to vote

To vote effectively in our system, you need to know four things:

  1. Mark the candidates in order of preference on your sheet. Your favourite gets a ‘1’, your second favourite gets a ‘2’ etc.. until you reach the one you dislike most who gets your lowest number (in fact no need to write a number – if you mark the others 1 to 12 in a 13-canddiate race, it is clear that the only one you don’t mark is number 13
  2. Your lower preferences can NEVER, EVER be used against your higher preferences. If you mark a 4 opposite a candidate, this vote can only transfer after 1,2 and 3 on your list are either elected or eliminated. It can only be used to give a slight preference for the person you marked 4 against those you marked 5, 6 etc., never against your 1,2,3.
  3. To avoid spoiling your vote, don’t mark the same number twice. (two 1s on the paper will disqualify your vote. Two 2s will make it non-transferrable, etc.) An X can be counted as a 1, but better not to risk it – use numbers. Don’t write anything that could identify you on the paper – that will rule it out. For safety, better not to write any smart remarks on the paper at all – that’s what Facebook is for.
  4. Bring I.D. with you in case you are challenged. You don’t need a polling card, but bring it if you have it.


Voting to end povertyCSO figures

The election itself is not going to +reverse the devastation to so many lives, particularly since the economic and social collapse of 2008.  However, the strength of the parties negotiating a programme for government after the election, and the strong voices fro the opposition benches keeping poverty issues on the agenda, will make a difference to who benefits from the recovery (or who suffers for another downturn).

The EAPN Ireland briefing on poverty and proposals for 2016-2021 identifies the main elements of an anti-poverty strategy needed:

  • A comprehensive strategy against poverty
  • A strategy for a decent income
  • A strategy for quality jobs
  • A strategy for quality services:
  • A strategy to end homelessness and ensure housing for all
  • A strategy based on human rights, dignity and equality
  • A strategy which we can afford “… a five-year plan to bring overall Irish taxation levels from their current 30% of GDP to the EU average, which is currently 40% of GDP.

We have tried to track the responses to the parties, which are given on the previous nine election blogs.  Here are  some pointers.


What do the parties say about an anti-poverty strategy?

  • The Anti-Austerity Alliance – People Before Profit do not specify the structures, but include policies throughout their manifesto(es) to redistribute resources to low and middle incomes.
  • Fine Gael proposes a new Integrated Framework for Social Inclusion, built on our three pillars of i. More and Better Jobs; ii. Long Term Thinking for Better Services; iii. Equality of Opportunity. – help eliminate any persisting discrimination and draw on existing as well as new strategies.
  • The Green Party calls for an approach that tackles the disease of poverty globally rather than the symptom of migration.
  • The Labour Party proposes to produce a new National Action Plan for Social Inclusion in 2017, with the eradication of child poverty the primary objective of that action plan. They want to establish a new body, the End Child Poverty Commission, to work to eradicate child poverty to make sure that we at least halve child poverty by 2021. They support a strong, social Europe that delivers for its citizens
  • Sinn Fein plan to fund the rollout of an area-based anti-poverty programme based on the Young Ballymun model.
  • The Social Democrats want to set and official all-of-Government target of ending Consistent Child Poverty by 2021, led by An Taoiseach; within 6 months develop a New Anti-Poverty Strategy, with clear targets, timeframes and lines of responsibility, and with families as a key focus; poverty-proof all Budgets and set against the targets of the new Anti-Poverty Strategy and replicate targeted area-based investment similar to the Young Ballymun programme


Is anyone talking about income and welfare?bridge homeless

EAPN Ireland Policy Officer, in the second of these blogs Income and welfare – the forgotten debate?, lays out the issues and the manifesto proposals of the main parties.

More recently Writing in the Irish Times, John FitzGerald of the ESRI says: Main parties’ manifestos fall short on welfare payments.  He continues:

“Social welfare payments provide the vital safety net for those who cannot work. The welfare system plays a major role in providing a more equal distribution of income than the market would deliver, and in preventing individuals and families falling below the poverty line.

“Ireland’s social welfare system has proven a more important lever than the tax system for redistributing income from the rich to the poor. ..Even in a period of low inflation, significant resources will be needed over the next five years just to maintain the real value of welfare payments.

“In the Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin manifestos there is a specific budget for social welfare, while in the Fianna Fáíl manifesto no budget is specified but a number of commitments are made to index certain benefits.

“On a crude calculation it could require the best part of €2 billion to maintain the real value of welfare payments for five years. The highest planned allocation for welfare of €1.7 billion is set out in the Labour manifesto. Fine Gael allocates around €1.4 billion, and Sinn Féin €900 million.

“The Labour commitment would go close to indexation, and it makes specific commitments on pensions and child benefit which amount to indexation. The Fine Gael allocation would fall short of providing for indexation of all benefits, but it has a commitment to index pensions. It also provides for an enhanced working family payment, which would leave less funds for indexing other benefits. Fianna Fáil does not give details of any budget allocation, but it does commit to indexing pensions. Also it makes provision for an increase in child benefit and working age payments, though at a rate below the likely rate of inflation. Sinn Féin has the smallest allocation for social welfare, only half of what would probably be needed to maintain the real value of welfare payments.”

To balance this assessment, it should be noted that Sinn Fein proposes to reinstate the full rate of Jobseekers Allowance for under 26s, recognise the cost of disability by increasing Disability Allowance by €20 and raise the cut-off age of the One- Parent Family Payment to 12 years old. The AAA/PBP propose to reverse cuts to welfare rates and One Parent Family Payment. Al parties have a range of improvements to welfare in their manifestoes.  See our blog Income and welfare – the forgotten debate?

Renua wants to make welfare payments conditional on 20 hours’ community service.


What about quality jobs?living wage 2

The EAPN Ireland blog Towards a ‘living wage’ – what does it mean and what are the parties saying? covers just what the title says, going into the manifestoes of the parties in some detail.

ICTU have tracked the election debates in some detail, and they report on their special web page.  They provide a list of candidates who have signed up to their charter on Fair Conditions at Work.


What about unemployment?

The INOU has produced a detailed analysis of the positions of different political parties under three headings:

  • Support unemployed people to achieve a minimum essential standard of living
  • Deliver better services for unemployed people
  • Provide unemployed people with decent and sustainable jobs

Are they talking about homelessness?

EAPN Ireland election blog No 8 looked at the positions of NGOs working for the homeless and how the issues are reflected in political parties’ manifestoes.  This has been a big issue in the campaigns, for obvious and tragic reasons, and it will be important to se how this is reflected in the new programme for Government.


How will we pay for decent income, services and jobs?

Tax has been a big part of the election debate. Very few parties are explicitly calling for an increase in overall tax take to pay for services.

The Social Democrats are calling for the current tax level to be maintained to allow for investment in services.

The Green Party continues to support a Basic Income and refundable tax credits, and a basic income has also been mentioned by Fianna Fail in the campaign

AAA/PBP propose a range of new taxes on the rich and corporations while Renua proposes a flat tax on all income.

The issue of abolition of USC (Fine Gael) or abolition on lower incomes (Fianna Fail and Labour) has been a big one in the election debates.

Sinn Fein is proposing a wealth tax.


Health, disability, childcare, communities etc., etc.

This election has been tracked buy more interest groups than any other.  EAPN Ireland Election Blog no. 3 lists a number of these, while Blog No 2 gives an overview from the point of view of the Community Platform’s Four Tests for the Next Government.

Some analyses of manifestos and party positions include:


And remember … It’s not over when the voting is finished.

Keep the information you have gathered during the election campaign and remind your representatives of their commitments as the new Programme for Government is negotiated and as the new Dáil debates policies to end poverty. The struggle conti8nues until poverty is ended.


Reminder: Here are the previous 9 EAPN Ireland election blogs:

9. Guest Blog – an Tánaiste Joan Burton, TD, Labour

8.  Ending homelessness

7.  Living wage’

6.  Guest Blog Gerry Adams TD, Sinn Fein

5.  Guest blog: Lucinda Creighton, TD, Renua

4.  Income and welfare

3.  Links to issues pages

2.  Community Platform’s Four Tests for the Next Government

1.  Intro: Poverty in the election 


Guest Blog – an Tánaiste Joan Burton, TD

EAPN Ireland Election Blog No. 9joan burton

We asked all of the party leaders to present their view on the issues which they will take up in Government or Opposition over the next ten years to fight poverty in Ireland.

This is the third of the series, from an Tánaiste Joan Burton, leader of the Labour Party.  Labour’s Manifesto Standing up for Ireland’s Future can be read here.

The Labour Party’s focus in Government has been to build an Ireland of renewed prosperity, from the bottom up and middle out – rather than the top down. People’s economic rights are just as central as their social rights to living a complete and fulfilled life. The right to the best education we can provide. The right to a job with decent pay and conditions. The right to an affordable and secure home. The right to healthcare based on need, not wealth. The right to security of income in retirement.

Labour in Government set about building the jobs-led recovery that is now under way. Throughout it all, we prioritised protecting the most vulnerable in society to the greatest possible extent.

Other countries in similar economic difficulties slashed welfare rates. We maintained core weekly welfare rates, including the State pension. And we protected the welfare safety net when others wanted to reduce it.

Official figures show that Ireland’s welfare system is the most effective in the EU at preventing poverty. The economic recovery is now under way and our mission is to ensure that recovery reaches everyone in society. We want to secure the recovery, to spread the benefits, and do so in a fair way that raises living standards and lowers inequality.

We have increased the minimum wage by 20% to €9.15 per hour – about 48.5% of the estimated median wage.

A challenging but achievable target would be to reach 60% of the median wage by 2021.

This would imply a Minimum Wage of €11.30 in 2015 values.

In achieving that, we will be transforming the Minimum Wage into a Living Wage, and making sure that work pays for all women.

We secured the funding necessary to introduce a second year of free pre-school from next September, as well as a further increase to Child Benefit.

And we will do much more if re-elected – we will substantially increase paid parental leave, and make childcare affordable for all families.

Taken together, these measures will increase pay for women, and provide all women with the childcare necessary to allow them to participate in the workforce and benefit from that increased pay.

We are determined to eradicate child poverty. We want to continue the progress made in recent years.

The initiatives we are proposing will complement our proposals to introduce free GP care for all, to expand access to school meals, to introduce paid parental leave and high quality, affordable childcare, to eliminate long-term homelessness and to increase the minimum wage. Taken together, these measures will significantly reduce the number of children and young people living in poverty by 2021.

We will:

  • Put the elimination of child poverty at the centre of government policy
  • Provide the poorest schools with the staffing and funding needed to tackle educational disadvantage
  • Continue to expand the school meals programme so that no child goes hungry in school
  • Implement early intervention initiatives aimed at children and families in disadvantaged communities
  • Increase child benefit from €140 to €155 a month by 2021

In government, we have funded the introduction of Area-Based Childcare (ABC) programmes in areas of concentrated disadvantage such as Limerick, Ballymun and Tallaght. Rates of early school leaving have dropped below 10% for the first time. And we have increased funding for school meals. We will build on this work to end child poverty.

We will produce a new National Action Plan for Social Inclusion in 2017, with the eradication of child poverty the primary objective of that action plan. We will establish a new body – the End Child Poverty Commission to work to eradicate child poverty to make sure that we at least halve child poverty by 2021.

In government, we have ensured that early school leaving has fallen below 10% for the first time. We have reformed the Junior Cert to put an end to young disadvantaged boys, in particular, disengaging from school. We have provided State funding to iScoil for those who have disengaged from school. And we have increased funding for school meals.

We will increase the school leaving age to 17 to end a situation where one in ten drop out before getting a Leaving Cert. We will continue funding the ABC programmes and iScoil, and restore funding of School Completion Programmes to 2011 levels, and bring their governance and funding back within the education sector. Labour will rapidly expand the school meals programme, to ensure that no child goes hungry in school. We will identify the poorest schools in the country, in both urban and rural areas, and provide them with the funding, staffing and supports necessary to tackle deeply entrenched levels of disadvantage.

A progressive vision based on vindicating people’s economic rights can – and will – lower inequality. That is Labour’s vision – and the recovery is now giving us the leeway to increase welfare payments in targeted areas such as Child Benefit and the Christmas Bonus, reduce taxes for low and middle-income workers, invest in public services such as free GP care for young children, and provide more teachers and facilities for our schools.

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