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Government accused of burdening the poor

The Irish government's "flawed analysis" and "faulty logic" have resulted in poor people being left to suffer a "hugely unfair proportion" of the burden of budget adjustments, a social justice watchdog has stated.

In its annual socio-economic review, entitled "A New and Fairer Ireland," Social Justice Ireland said during the boom, the "promotion of economic growth as an end in itself became the focus of policy" which led to a series of failures, including regulating banks.

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The organization said that assumptions the economy should have significance over all else, that preventing all the major banks from collapse was the major economic priority, and that cuts in public expenditure were key were "invalid" and "fail to grasp the fact that economic and social development are two sides of the one coin."

"On the one hand there is a danger that people put all their trust in the market as the only real source of solutions to the challenges being faced," SJI director, Fr. Seán Healy, said. "On the other there is a danger that people expect government to resolve all the challenges effectively and fairly. Both of these extremes must be resisted."

The review criticized the government for its failure to acknowledge that improvements in social welfare rates from the mid-2000s were simply a "catch-up" for people.

This failure, combined with a "faulty logic" which justified targeting poor people, had led to a situation where the working poor and people depending on social welfare payments have been left without sufficient resources to "live life with dignity."

It found that at least 90,000 people employed in Ireland were at risk of poverty. By increasing the tax net and introducing a universal social charge, the last budget only added to the hardships already faced by working poor households, it said.

"It is profoundly wrong that poor people carry a major burden while senior bond-holders, who carry a large part of the responsibility for Ireland's implosion, make no contribution to sharing the burden," Fr. Healy said.