Trócaire and the Society of St Vincent de Paul has urged the new government to put poor people first.  See also what SVP wants to hear from election candidates.

Poor must come first

Those who have suffered most for the excesses and mistakes of the past are those in Ireland and overseas who can least afford to do so, said Trócaire and the Society of St Vincent de Paul, as the two organisations hosted a pre-election political event in Dublin’s Mansion House today.

Politicians from four of the five main political parties were asked to outline how they would combat extreme poverty if they were in government. Representing the political parties were; Sean Barrett, TD, Fine Gael; Roisin Shorthall, TD, Labour and Eamon Ryan, TD, Green Party and Eoin O’Broin,Sinn Fein. Apologies were received from Minister Pat Carey,TD, Fianna Fail who was due to attend.

Justin Kilcullen, Director of Trócaire commented –

Regardless of whether we’re talking about poverty here in Ireland or poverty in the developing world, politicians need to right their wrongs and give poor people the same opportunities and second chances that have been afforded to banks and financial institutions

I’ve seen too many families in trauma because they couldn’t afford to feed and clothe their children. Whether that child is in Ireland or in Malawi is irrelevant. It’s simply wrong and we have to change it.

We have come together with the SVP because chronic poverty here in Ireland and in the developing world is unacceptable. Our next government must protect the most vulnerable in the future instead of forcing them to carry the burden of political and economic mistakes.

Paul McKevitt, SVP national vice-president, said:

The at-risk of poverty rate in Ireland (14.1%) must be addressed. More than one third (34%) of households at risk of poverty are in arrears with one or more of their utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, hire purchase agreements or other loans/bills. Children (aged 0-17) remained the most vulnerable age group with an at risk of poverty rate of 18.6% and lone parent households continued to be the most vulnerable group experiencing the highest at risk of poverty rate in 2009 at 35.5%.

Here in Ireland the people at-risk of poverty are enough people to fill Croke Park many times over. While in the developing world five million children will die this year, because they don’t have enough food to stay healthy. Trócaire and the Society of St Vincent de Paul are calling for the next government to commit to tackling the injustice and indignity of poverty for the most vulnerable people in Ireland and in the developing world.

Seven questions for election candidates from St. Vincent de Paul

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Click on link to Download – ‘Give Hope – what SVP wants to hear from Election candidates’

The Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP), the largest charity of social concern and action in Ireland, has published a list of seven questions, which it has asked its 9,500 volunteers to put to candidates over the next two weeks of canvassing.

“These questions need to be asked because the crisis Ireland faces is not just economic – it is a social crisis as well”, said SVP National President, Mairead Bushnell.

The questions asked by the SVP are:

  • If your party is in Government, how will you improve things for the people we help?
  • What specifically will you do to create a fairer and more just Irish society?
  • What are you going to do about protecting social welfare rates ?
  • What do you intend to do about rising energy costs ?
  • How do you intend to tackle the costs for parents of accessing education at pre school, primary, second and third levels ?
  • Many of those we help are struggling to afford private and local authority rent and mortgages – what do you intend to do to assist them?
  • What will you do to reform the health system so that access to healthcare is based on need and not just ability to pay?

The SVP document is entitled ‘Give Hope – What SVP wants to hear from election candidates’. In addition to the seven questions the document sets out the SVP concerns in relation to poverty in low income households, the huge cost of education, unaffordable energy costs, social housing waiting lists and the unfair health system. It is available on

SVP is spending more money than ever fighting poverty and disadvantage in Ireland. In 2009 the SVP spent almost €32 million on direct assistance to individuals and families, including:

  • €9.7 million on general household expenses;
  • €7.6 million on food costs;
  • €5.7 million on paying for energy and
  • €4.2 million on participation in education.

Most of this funding comes from donations from the general public.

Calls for help around the country increased by an average of 35% in 2010. “ We know that the rising unemployment, cuts in social welfare, increased taxes on the low paid and reductions in services mean that the SVP will need to spend even more in 2011l,” said Ms Bushnell.

She said that local SVP Conferences see the affects of this social crisis every time their members visit people in need, from the work of the SVP homeless hostels and its family resource centres and other services.

“Poverty and disadvantage will continue to be inherited by children born today and their own children are unlikely to have a better standard of living in the years to come. Sadly this is the reality facing many of the families we help, but it should not be so.”

SVP has a vision for an inclusive Irish society where people do not have to worry about scrambling for resources, one in which safety nets, such as healthcare, are guaranteed for all. Poverty and vulnerability can affect anybody and are not necessarily the product of personal choices.

“It’s our experience that the people who benefited least from the Celtic Tiger are those who are suffering most now. They have recently been joined by others, many in work or self-employed, who are struggling to make ends meet due to changes in their circumstances and recent budget cuts. SVP also acknowledges the plight of small businesses struggling with the high cost of services and charges which threaten their livelihoods,” said Mairead Bushnell.