11 December 2008 Edition

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A Better Ireland is Possible, says new report

THE Community Platform – a network of 28 non-governmental organisations working to combat poverty, social exclusion and inequality - launched an important new report this week: A Better Ireland is Possible - Towards an Alternative Vision for Ireland.
The Platform includes organisations such as Age Action, the Community Workers’ Co-operative, the European Anti-Poverty Network, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and the Women’s Council of Ireland. The aim of the Platform is to promote a more equitable, just and inclusive Ireland.
The report, written by academics Peadar Kirby of the University of Limerick and Mary Murphy of NUI Maynooth, deals with a broad range of issues. According to its authors: “The paper has two core aims: critical engagement with the present Irish models of development; and constructive visioning about alternative models of development.”
Among the issues dealt with in the report is a detailed analysis of the growing levels of inequality produced in the south of Ireland during the Celtic Tiger years.
There is also a critique of the National Economic and Social Council’s policy document, The Developmental Welfare State, which underpins much of social policy in Ireland.
The report’s final chapter asks, Is There a Better Model of Development for Ireland? This chapter makes a strong case for alternative measurements of development such as the United Nations Human Development Index, and for a shift in values away from individualism and maximisation of economic growth towards an approach that promotes social and economic growth and equality in equal measure.
 “Another world is possible,” say the authors, “but as Anne Marie Smyth has written, political struggle does nevertheless depend in part on the ability to imagine alternative worlds.”
At the centre of their vision of alternatives is a rebalancing of the relationship between the market and the state in order to “increase the likelihood of generating more equal outcomes”. To achieve this they argue for “an alternative model of development that promotes: sustainable growth, industrial policy and national infrastructure; education and training; wealth, income distribution and access to employment; commitment to public services and regulation for high standards; gender equality, economic autonomy and an ethic of care; and inclusive governance and democratic participation.”
In addition to making clear and coherent arguments, the authors also provide detailed statistical evidence from Ireland and abroad to support their claim.
At the launch of the report in Dublin on Monday, Professor Peadar Kirby made a passionate plea for fresh thinking and new responses to the economic failures of present government policy. He called on political parties, civic society and academics to break with the present consensus and to build a new movement for a fairer Ireland.
•     Copies of the report are available from [email protected] at the Community Workers’ Co-operative.

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