Wealth and poverty: does the south’s government really give a damn?

I remember Dublin in the rare oul’ times – colourful public figures,  s strong sense of community,  bars where poets and artists gathered to talk and get pissed. I also remember bare-foot children on O’Connell Bridge or outside the Gresham Hotel, begging for a few coppers to help them live through another day.

Last night I watched Pascal Donohoe, the Finance minister in the south, talking on RTÉ’s Prime Time . He was explaining that it was thanks to the great work that the previous government had done down the years, the south of Ireland would be able to weather the present hard economic rain and emerge full of potential, ready to get back to where it left off.

Will the present government really manage to ride the storm, bring  wealth back to the southern state? It’s quite possible. But wealth isn’t the whole story. That involves not just wealth but who holds it.

Some figures: gross income inequality is higher in the south of Ireland than any other EU state.  Since the financial crash of 2008 and before Covid, there indeed was an improvement in wealth south of the border; but the group that benefited most from that was the top 10% . From 2015-2017, for example, the bottom 50% of people in the southern state saw their gross income fall by 2%, and the top 1% of people saw their share increase by 27%.  From 2010-2015, average household expenditure among the bottom 40% of citizens rose by 3.3%, while their incomes rose by just 1.19%.  In the southern state,  the top 10% of people hold between 42-58% of the wealth, while the bottom 50% of people account for 12% of the state’s wealth.

Did Pascal Donohoe talk about these stark inequalities and his government’s plans to work towards a greater spread of wealth? I switched off half-way through Prime Time, but I’d be weak with astonishment if Pascal expressed his concern about this uneven spread. And if he spoke of his determination to roll up his sleeves and put in place policies that might stop the super-rich hogging the cash while the lower are kept low with the wealthy’s giant knee on their neck, I’m sad to say I missed it. Any of you hear Pascal mention income inequality?

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