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12 July 2001 Edition

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UN finds shameful level of Irish poverty

While the coalition government dithers on when to call an election, driven it seems by a desire to go to the voters with the most attractive tax and spending package it can magic up, the latest UN Human Development Report casts a shadow on the record of the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government and their four years in office.

The UN report, which produces a poverty index, has found for the fourth year in succession that more people live in poverty in the 26 Counties than in any other industrialised state outside of the USA. We have one of the most poor, illiterate and unequal societies in the industrialised world. The UN report also found that men's wages in the 26 Counties are on average 2.5 times more than what women earn.

Sinn Féin Sligo/Leitrim representative Sean MacManus has expressed Sinn Féin's concern at the dire situation highlighted by publication of the UN development programme league table measuring the extent of human poverty.

MacManus said: ``For the fourth year in succession, Ireland languishes near the bottom of the table and shows that 15.3 per cent of the state's citizens are living in poverty. The worrying statistics also show that 23 per cent of the population suffer from functional illiteracy and cannot perform basic tasks such as reading a bus timetable.''

Councillor MacManus said: ``The publication of this report and accompanying index reinforces what Sinn Féin has being saying for some time. The government's current strategy is isolating a huge section of Irish society. Children are living in poverty while Bertie Ahern seems more concerned with opinion polls.''

``Ireland has the highest economic growth rate in the Western world yet we rank 16th of 17 in terms of the distribution of our wealth. The government must change its approach of giving tax cuts to the rich and instead invest in adequate development programmes that will benefit the entire country.

``Another worrying aspect in this report indicates that men in Ireland earn up to 2.5 times more than women, the worst imbalance for any Western Country. This too, demands immediate government action.''

Mary Harney has expressed a desire to spend a fifth year in office. Can it be that she wants to make up for the mistakes of the last four?

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