The real reason McCreevy should resign
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
At least one in five 26-County citizens are living in poverty in the midst of the longest ever period of economic growth and wealth creation. In the same economic boom, the gap between families on low incomes and those on high incomes has risen. The risk of women suffering poverty has also increased.
In fact, the 26 Counties have the second-highest proportion of workers on low incomes in the EU. At 21%, the 26 Counties are on a par with Greece and only slightly better than Portugal, where 24% of workers are on low incomes. The 26 Counties also have the second largest gap between rich and poor in the EU. Only Portugal has a greater degree of income disparity.
The National Economic and Social Forum found that the flagship elements of government policy, such as Charlie McCreevy's budget last December and the £40 billion National Development Plan, were not poverty proofed
These are just some of the findings of a new report by the National Economic and Social Forum (NESF). The NESF report also contains some more damning information on the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government. The study was conducted to analyse the progress made by the Dublin Government in implementing their National Anti-Poverty Strategy (NAPS).
It found that the flagship elements of government policy, such as Charlie McCreevy's budget last December and the £40 billion National Development Plan, were not poverty proofed. What the NESF report is saying is that in the two crucial decisions of how the government was going to spend its money in the short and long term, there was no attempt made to take into account how the spending decisions would impact on poverty. The NESF found that nine out of thirteen departments had failed to show how they were poverty proofing their work.
To the outside observer, it was clear from Charlie McCreevy's budget that low paid workers, the unemployed, parents staying at home and children were all treated considerably less equitably than high paid professional workers.
The NESF also found that the NAPS had failed in its aim to combat educational disadvantage. The percentage of pupils advancing to complete their leaving certificates has not risen over the past five years. ``It also has to be accepted that policies up to now have not been sufficiently supportive of the pupils, their families, the schools and the local communities concerned,'' the NESF found.
The NESF also highlighted omissions in the NAPS strategy. The NAPS does not have targets for adult illiteracy, healthcare and homelessness. Considering that these are some of the core issues affecting Irish society today, it is unbelievable that they were not included in the original NAPS.
The reaction of the Dublin Government to the NESF report was interesting. Social Community and Family Affairs minister Dermot Ahern tried to undermine the report by saying that the NESF data was mainly from 1997 and that a forthcoming report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) would show more falls in poverty.
There was no facing up to the fact that the government had failed to fulfil its own commitments to poverty proof policy and that Charlie McCreevy's divisive economic strategy was at complete variance with government promises.
There have been many calls for McCreevy's resignation over the botched European Investment Bank (EIB) nomination. If McCreevy does resign, however, it should not just because of the EIB. It should be because of his flawed budget and its complete disregard for promoting social equality and reducing poverty.
Maybe his resignation should be added to the list of new NAPS objectives?