Fr Sean Healy: ‘Ireland’s social contract is broken’

The country’s housing crisis, broadband problems and the growth of zero-hour employment are all part of the Government’s systemic failure to make basic citizens’ rights a priority, says Social Justice Ireland.

Fr Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, bemoaned the rise in precarious employment. Picture: Denis Minihane

Democracies are founded on a social contract, the think tank is arguing, a contract which sets out an agreement between individuals, institutions and government and the expectations, rights and responsibilities that come with this.

However, director Sean Healy said: “Ireland’s social contract is broken” as government and institutions are not making a minimum standard of living, essential social services and infrastructure, and the protection of basic rights a priority.

“The legitimate expectations of citizens are not being met. This is most obvious in areas such as housing and homelessness, a two-tier healthcare system, an ongoing failure to provide rural broadband and high levels of poverty and social exclusion, especially among children.”

At the launch of its annual Socio-Economic Review, fr Healy said: “The growth in precarious employment and under-employment are further examples of trends that are undermining the social contract.

“There is widespread disillusionment and disappointment that institutions created for the betterment of ordinary people have failed to deliver and, in many cases, are now seen as part of the problem rather than part of the solution.”

If ordinary people’s basic needs are to be met however it will involve increased government spending and choices will have to be made, such as increasing corporation and general taxation to pay for benefits such as improved infrastructure and public services, Social Justice Ireland warned.

The organisation said that the Government is too dependant on “on the market to address [infrastructural] deficits” as its tax take is so low that it can not fund big projects.

It is calling for a new social contract to be developed where “technological development, economic growth, and societal advancement are shared” between the richest and poorest people in this country.

It wants a social agreement centred around a vibrant economy based on sustainable economic growth rather than short-term electoral gain and fair taxation.

“Fair taxation would require an increase in the overall tax-take of 3%of GDP which will move us closer to the European average,” said Dr Healy.

“Such an increase must be implemented equitably and in a way that reduces income inequality. It would also require that a fair share of corporate profits would be paid in tax.”

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