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Policies on poverty, equality, social policy

Government policy on equality and poverty came under fire during debate on the Social welfare (miscellaneous provisions) §2 Bill, 2010 (Dail Eireann, Debates, 24th November 2010, 31-48; 1st December 2010, 651-665).  The Bill was then referred to committee.  Michael D Higgins (Lab, Galway W) in the course of wide-ranging remarks, invited those who spoke of the dangers of social welfare fraud to concentrate on the much greater frauds committed in the banking system and firms that received billions of euros from the state in government approved contracts.  As for the goals of social policy, he reaffirmed his commitment to the principle of universality.  They should define a social floor below which people should not be allowed to sink.  Instead, Michael McDowell had persuaded the cabinet against the principle of equality:

That is why the Combat Poverty Agency is gone.  It was a critical voice, so it needed to be absorbed into the department.  It is also the reason the Equality Authority and so forth are gone.  Not only were we not to advance concepts like equality, we were not to discuss them either.

He referred back to the Kilkenny conference of 1975, when poverty was discovered in Ireland:

Sr Stanislaus Kennedy gave an inspiring address and off we went to found the Combat Poverty Agency.  However, when the bogus riches were being puffed up to their greatest height, people believed that they needed to get rid of the agency.  That is exactly what occurred.