The high number of people living in poverty in Ireland highlights the prevailing level of income inequality in this country, according to Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon.

Deputy Gannon, who is the party’s spokesperson on social welfare, said:

“The at risk of poverty rate, as measured by the Central Statistics Office, was 10.6 per cent in 2023, down from 12.5 per cent in 2022.

“The latest figures on poverty provide a worrying insight into the prevailing level of income inequality in Ireland. Social Justice Ireland now estimate that despite cost of living measures in recent budgets, there were around 560,000 people living below the poverty line last year.

“Among them are 177,000 children living in poverty in Ireland – that’s a number high enough to be considered a national disgrace in a rich country like ours.

“It just goes to show that what the Government has done in the last two budgets has been wholly inadequate for hundreds of thousands of people. Increases in welfare payments haven’t been enough to allow people reliant on them to keep up with the rest.

“Yes, there have been cost of living measures, but far too many of them were one-off. I’ve repeatedly made the point that poverty is rarely a temporary situation for people, so one-off measures bring only brief respite.

“One of starker statistics is that over 145,000 people living in poverty actually have a job. This proves that the notion that a job is the best poverty-reliever is a nonsense. This is only the case if the job pays a decent wage. That number – the 145,000 ‘working poor’ – is up by around 12,000 since last year, and highlights the importance of a Living Wage, something the Government has promised but hasn’t made nearly enough progress on.”

Deputy Gannon went on to criticise the Government’s failure to tackle child poverty.

“The Government is repeatedly missing its child poverty targets. In Budget 2024, they increased Qualified Child payments by only €4, and just €2 the year before. It’s obvious that these miserly amounts fall well short of what is required and were never going to be enough to support children or families on the brink of poverty.

“My party had proposed an additional €10 for children under 12 and an extra €15 for teenagers, which had the potential to make a difference.

“These persistently high numbers reinforce what we as a party have long been saying: that poverty cannot be eradicated without an appropriate level of income supports. We need a plan to increase core welfare rates towards the Minimum Essential Standard of Living. Permanent financial supports are the only thing that will mitigate income inequality for those at the bottom.

“It’s worth noting that while the number of older people in poverty fell significantly, this was mainly a result of cost of living measures that were one-off. Without these, the poverty rate for people over 65 would have been more than twice what it is. I find this very concerning, given that these measures are temporary.

“Adequate and permanent increases in the State pension are necessary to ensure a dignified existence for older people. The Government’s response so far has been just a sticking plaster solution that will result in increased poverty and deprivation when removed.”

March 7, 2024

Back to all Posts