Conservative politicians consistently put the interests of the 1% ahead of the rest of society. When the banks collapsed in 2008 for example, Fianna Fail had no hesitation in using billions of taxpayers’ money to bail them out. This fed into a doubling of deprivation in the country, but it was deemed a price worth paying for a return to financial stability. Similar considerations dominate taxation policy with corporations paying lower rates in Ireland than the cleaners in their headquarters. During the crisis, workers were asked to pay higher taxes, but this never applied to the profits of the corporate sector.
When pressed on this support for the wealthy, right-wing commentators invariably use the same tired mantra- that without a healthy economy there would be no resources for the rest of society. The implication is that strong economic growth makes life better for everyone, but is this really the case?
Over the last five years Ireland has had the fastest growing economy in the European Union. Figures compiled by the European Commission confirm that Irish growth is three times the European average, with a headline rate of 7.3% for 2017 and 8.9% for 2018. 1 If conservatives were to be believed, this would be the perfect time to finally put the economy in the service of the people.
Irish GDP per capita is now the fifth highest in the world and the country has never had more accumulated wealth.2 Despite this, however, Ireland languishes near the bottom of the league tables on key social services and living conditions.
Historic crises in housing and healthcare rightly claim the bulk of our attention, but there are also major problems with the costs of childcare, congestion in our cities, broadband in our rural communities, Co2 emissions and low pay for our youth. Despite record levels of economic resources there are also one million people living in consistent deprivation – 800,000 of these in ongoing poverty.3
Any recovery worth the name would have lifted those on middle incomes and the poor, but instead, workers have delivered an economic recovery without any significant improvements in their quality of life. The recent nurses and midwive’s strike shows this particularly clearly. Over the last 10 years nurses have taken pay cuts between 20-30%. They are also overworked and understaffed with nurse to patient ratios double what are considered safe levels. People Before Profit want a recovery that is shared by nurses, midwives and the wider working class. In this document we look at some of the key policies aimed at improving living standards for the majority – a goal that must inform decision making in a modern republic.