Irish Republican News · April 21, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Churches appeal to government on inequality, fiscal policy

Irish churches have urged the Dublin government to increase taxes on the wealthy and raise the lowest social welfare rates in a bid to close the increasing gap between rich and poor.

The Conference of Religious in Ireland (CORI) warned of a “dramatic” widening divide, blaming unfair taxation rates and low expenditure on social initiatives such as unemployment and healthcare.

It pointed to official figures from Brussels showing that the Irish Government spends just over half the EU average on social protection, which includes spending on health, disability, old age, widows and widowers, families and children, unemployment, and housing.

In 2000 the 15 member states spent on average 27.3% of Gross Domestic Product on these vulnerable groups. The 26 Counties spent just 14.1%, trailing far behind the second lowest, Spain, which spent just over 20%.

Fr Sean Healy of CORI’s Justice Commission said nothing has happened since 2000 to suggest we may be catching up with our European partners.

He said we will never bridge the social and economic infrastructure gaps unless we gather a larger share of national income to build a fairer and more successful country.

Fr Healy called on the Government to begin by honouring its promise to raise lowest social welfare rates to 30% of the gross average industrial wage by 2007.

Ireland’s tax rate in 2002 was 28% of its GDP. Worldwide only two other countries collected less tax, and CORI warned the deficit is reflecting on social provisions and infrastructure.

CORI says the gap between rich and poor will never be bridged unless a larger share of national income is gathered and invested.

It describes Ireland as a “too-low-tax economy” and suggests corporation tax should be raised from 12.5% to 17.5%.

Social welfare payments must be increased to an “adequate level” in order to address Ireland`s relatively high rate of income poverty and minimise social exclusion, it suggests.

CORI represents Catholic institutions throughout the state. The 187-page report is based on figures published by the European Commission.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News