The real politicial opposition
Unlike the ‘official' opposition of Fine Gael and Labour, this ‘real' opposition publish regularly their analysis of government policy and audit of government promises, with telling effect.
These are the two in the engine room of CORI, Seán Healy and Brigid Reynolds, who published their annual socio-economic review on 24 March.
Prior to that however, they attended the meeting of the social partners at Dublin Castle on 15 February last and there catalogued the series of broken government promises.
- The failure by Government to honour commitments contained in the national agreement ‘Towards 2016' (e.g. failure to provide the funding in Budget 2008 for 300 primary care teams; failure to deliver the National Carers Strategy promised by the end of 2007 etc).
- Government setting targets in other national strategies that are completely at odds with the national agreement. For example, Government's adult literacy target in its Action Plan for Social Inclusion would see between a third and half a million people in Ireland's labour force having serious literacy difficulties in 2016. This is totally at odds with the goals of ‘Towards 2016'.
CORI's annual Socio-Economic Review for 2008, shows that while the number of people at risk of poverty has fallen by 120,000 since 2001, almost 750,000 people still live in households with incomes below the poverty line. Thirty per cent of all households at risk of poverty are headed by a person with a job and, it claimed: “The failure by Government to address the ‘working poor issue' is a serious indictment of how the resources available throughout the Celtic Tiger years were used”.
It claimed the latest data show that 720,774 people (17 per cent of the total population) have incomes less than the standard poverty line recognised by the European Commission and the United Nations. In 2008 this line is equivalent to €11,400 for a single person and to €26,400 for a household of four.
It pointed out that:
- Almost 30 per cent of all households at risk of poverty are headed by a person with a job;
- Half of all households at risk of poverty are headed by a person outside the labour force (i.e. they are elderly, have a disability, are ill or in caring roles that pevent them from working); More than 20 per cent of all children in Ireland are at risk of poverty.
It calls for the following:
- A change to the tax system to ensure that the working poor benefit from the full value of the tax credit to which they are entitled;
- A guarantee that the lowest welfare rate for a single person is maintained at 30 per cent of gross average industrial earnings;
- Bringing the welfare rate for the second adult in a household up to 100 per cent of the single adult payment (from its current situation of 67 per cent) Addressing child poverty and childcare problems by increasing child benefit and/or increasing the Early Childhood Supplement.
Three years ago Seán Healy was the guest speaker at the annual Fianna Fáil ‘think-in' at Inchidoney, Co Cork. Following exposure to the wiles of Fianna Fáil there was apprehension that CORI would be co-opted. And, briefly, this seemed to be so. Now CORI seems restored to the opposition benches.