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European targets against poverty

On 19th May, the Minister for Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, told Aengus O Snodaigh (SF, Dublin SC) that indicators for European targets against poverty were being examined by an expert sub-group of the EU Social Protection Committee (SPC) and officials of the Social Inclusion Division of his department were actively participating in its deliberations. A number of options were under consideration and these were discussed at the SPC meeting on 17-18th May, following which a recommendations was to be framed for social affairs and related ministers on 7-8th June. It was anticipated that a proposal for an appropriate poverty target would then go to the European Council meeting later in June (Dail Eireann, Debates, 19th May 2010, 728-9). On the following day, Aengus O Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs would the minister not agree that a specific target was necessary if real progress on poverty reduction was to be made? (Dail Eireann, Debates, 20th May 2010, 838-840). Micheal Martin agreed that targets were necessary. The EU2020 strategy was better shaped and formulated because it had shortened the number of targets and areas and had a sharper focus that the Lisbon strategy. He welcomed the targets for education and the idea of targets for social inclusion. There were issues across the member states about the definition of poverty, reflecting these debates domestically. Michael D Higgins (Lab, Galway W) quoted the European Anti Poverty Network commentary on the Lisbon treaty to the effect that there would be poverty proofing of policies, including the headline targets. He pointed out that Ireland at one stage had the highest income, but was second from the bottom in social protection and spent significantly less than the European average. The minister, though, accepted that poverty proofing was something which must be fed into the debate. Later, on 27th May, the Minister for Community, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs PAt Carey told Roisin Shortall (Lab, Dublin NW) that an overall European poverty reduction target would be ‘translated into several national targets based on appropriate indicators given national circumstances and priorities’ (Dail Eireann, Debates, 27th May 2010, 768-9). The Irish target was based on the consistent poverty indicator.