Despite what we have seen from our political leaders for the past 100 years, I strongly believe that Irish people want an equal and a fair society, where we look after those who have been born with less advantages than us. This is borne out by the way we have supported the missions in the past, and the fact that we are in the top 5 of the worlds most charitable nations. It also comes to the surface in elections when party politics is set aside, like the 1990 election of Mary Robinson as president, and of course 2011 when we elected Michael D. Higgins. The Irish saying “Ní neart go cur le chéile” (together we are stronger) and “Ar thrá a chéile a mhaireann na ndaoine” (it’s by working together that the people survive) also point to this.
I have recently just finished reading Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett’s book The Inner Level, which is about how more equal societies reduce stress, restore sanity and improve everyone’s well being. Their research and previous book, The Spirit Level, looks at how more equal societies almost always do better. (I strongly recommend both books, and the website www.equalitytrust.org.uk )
Wilkinson & Pickett looked at societies which were more and less equal throughout the world, and compared a whole raft of statistics from the rates of drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, mental health problems and education, and found that even when the people we more materially well off in terms of income, they were worse off in the more unequal countries. Even people on better incomes in the more unequal countries did worse than people in the equivalent place on the scale in the more equal ones.
I’ve always thought, like most Irish people, that we need to fight for a more equal society. I found that the Green founding principles that call for decision making at the lowest effective level, and the poverty of two-thirds of the world’s family demands a redistribution of the world’s resources (see the Party Website here) convinced me that I was supporting the right cause.
The recession, and the austerity of the past decade has made Irish society more unequal. With this, the amount of stress people seem to be under day to day, is boiling over into road rage, worsening mental health, and overstretched health services. We need to put a stop to policies and budget decisions that help big business at the cost of the people at the bottom of our society. We need not to introduce any more tax breaks until we have homes for everyone, are feeding and schooling all our children, and have decent healthcare without the ridiculously long waiting lists.
We know from watching climate related disasters on the news that those who have least in this world are those who can cope least when storms and floods happen. This makes equality a green issue, as we have to rise together to find solutions. We can’t expect those who only have a coal boiler, a 20 year old diesel car, and no bus service to where they need to be to take the first steps. We have to make it easy for everyone. We have to give everyone a chance, the Irish way!