Extreme poverty is right in front of us – and what are we doing?

(19 May 2014)

EXTREME POVERTY IS everywhere in Ireland. Walk through our capital city and you’ll see homeless people on the streets, while the same sight is replicated in towns across the country. It’s not a new phenomenon, but it has become more prevalent in our society in recent years.

In 1986 an independent body was established to deal with the growing problem of poverty and destitution. It was called the Combat Poverty Agency, and for more than 20 years it played a key role in increasing awareness and understanding of poverty, while also influencing and informing government policies to tackle the issue in Ireland.

When the CPA was set up the rate of unemployment in Ireland was 17 per cent (232,000 people), while emigration had reached 28,000 people per year and almost 16 per cent of people were living in consistent poverty. Combat Poverty’s priorities in the early days reflected the major social and economic challenges of the time: unemployment, emigration and the poor state of the country’s finances.

Skip 26 years and Ireland finds itself in similar circumstances. With 430,000 now on the Live Register, an unemployment rate of 14.3 per cent, the country in massive debt and hundreds emigrating every week, an independent and influential organisation like the CPA is exactly what this country needs.

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