Poor and marginalised increasingly silenced by recession

Today, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) Ireland marked 20 years of working to create a fairer society in Ireland and Europe with the launch of a new book.

Ireland and the European Social Inclusion Strategy: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead, reflects on the substantial progress made in tackling poverty and social exclusion in Ireland over the past 20 years, according to the EAPN. It also acknowledges that even at the height of Ireland's economic success, there remained very significant problems for people at risk of poverty including access to services, increased income inequality and access to the labour market. The book also sets out a vision for a European Union that serves people and society ahead of powerful economic lobby groups, said the EAPN today in a press release.

(Pictured: Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey)

(Most of the text below paraphrases an EAPN press release)

Philip O'Connor, Chairperson of EAPN Ireland said in the press release:

“The voice of the poor and the marginalised has been largely silenced in the current recession. Unlike most other groups in society, they have no powerful interest groups to represent them.

"The over 14% of Irish people living in poverty and those who are increasingly drifting into long-term unemployment have few advocates and little power. The infrastructure of services and organisations supporting people in poverty is fragile and over-burdened. Despite that fragility, the infrastructure that does exist has been seriously diminished by disproportionate cuts to vital community supports."

The book contains contributions from thirteen experts from civil society, academia, politics, and the civil service. It assesses the impact of the European Social Inclusion Strategy in Ireland - in which Ireland was once to the fore - and set out a roadmap for how European policy can be leveraged to tackle poverty at national level, leading to a fairer and more equal society.

The book was launched by newly-appointed Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs Pat Carey. Mr. O'Connor encouraged the Minister to take stock of the many positive initiatives and policies that were implemented by successive governments over the last decade.

"It is important to recognise that while many issues were unresolved at the outset of the recession, considerable progress was made in tackling poverty and social exclusion in this country through imaginative and effective policies," said Philip O'Connor. "That progress did not happen in a vacuum, but as a result of genuine dialogue and partnership between the government, civil society and marginalised individuals and groups. It is also important to remember - as this book attests - that two decades of progress in tackling poverty began in the eighties, a period in which we faced challenges just as serious as those today. That proves that it is not just a question of money, but rather of political commitment to the poorest in society."

Copies of the book are available from EAPN Ireland