New research on economy, society and environment shows Ireland lagging behind other EU countries

Ireland has been ranked eleventh out of 15 European Union countries in the Sustainable Progress Index.

Ireland is ranked last on its performance on the environment, tenth on performance on the economy and ninth on its performance on society.

"Ireland is making poor progress when ranked against the other 14 countries in the EU-15," says Dr Seán Healy, Director Social Justice Ireland (pictured). "The new Sustainable Progress Index, published today by Social Justice Ireland, shows the scale of the challenge facing Ireland under the headings of economy, society and environment."

"This new study shows that of the EU-15 countries, Ireland is ranked last on its performance on the environment; tenth on performance on the economy and ninth on its performance on society. Overall it is ranked eleventh of the 15 countries studied.

"These results show that despite huge austerity, rapidly growing GDP and improving employment statistics, Ireland has a long way to go before it reaches the level of development and fairness to which most Irish people aspire."

This index has been developed to show how Ireland is currently performing on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 goals were divided into three sub-groups – economy, society and environment. The indicators were compared to the other 14 countries in the EU-15 to see how the situation had changed over the past decade and to see how Ireland is performing currently.

Under all three headings Ireland’s ranking is worse now than it was in 2006.

"On the economy Ireland has slipped from sixth in 2006 to 10th in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, despite an excellent performance in GDP growth. On the environment, Ireland fell from fourteenth to fifteenth over the decade," said Michelle Murphy, research and policy analyst with Social Justice Ireland.

"Measuring its progress as a society Ireland fell from seventh to ninth position. These rankings go some way towards understanding why many Irish people don’t believe there has been sufficient real progress in recent years."

The researchers who conducted this study, Professor Charles Clark, an economics professor from New York and Dr Catherine Kavanagh from UCC argue that their results strongly suggest that focusing exclusively on GDP as a measure of progress is clearly misleading.

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