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Saturday morning - Exclusion in modern Ireland panel - Tom Johnson Summer School 2014

Posted on June 21, 2014 at 01:15 PM

Tom Johnson Summer School 2014

In this post Grace Williams from UCD Labour posts about the Saturday morning panel which looked at Exclusion in Modern Ireland.

Promoting Social Inclusion in Irish Society Social exclusion is an issue in Ireland which is becoming more prevalent in politics than ever, in the aftermath of the financial crisis and the resulting rise of the far-right. Speaking on a diverse panel at the Tom Johnson Summer School in Portlaoise entitled, "Exclusion in Modern Ireland" were John Baker of the Social Justice School in UCD; Dr. Ronni Greenwood of the Department of Psychology in University of Limerick; Ben Power of the Transgender Equality Network Ireland; CEO of The Integration Centre, Killian Forde; and Aisling Twomey from Pavee Point, with each speaker reacting to a different aspect of exclusion in Irish society.

John Baker's speech on a basic income is a sentiment that resonates with the panel audience. With instability in employment increasing for young people, job security and a guaranteed income are prevalent issues for recent graduates, a theme with which Labour Youth's campaign for a living wage has prioritised. A basic income is defined as a guaranteed pay which allows a decent standard of living. In terms of basic living standards, this is not a radical view of equality nor is it unachievable. It is an essential part of promoting an egalitarian society. Not only would a basic income promote a more equal society, it also allows people to retain control over their own lives without having to convince anyone that they are in need of social welfare. Severe inequality promotes and perpetuates social exclusion. Having a guaranteed income promotes social inclusion as it enables people to actively participate in society and engage with their local communities.

The second speaker, Dr. Ronni. Greenwood, spoke emotively on the issue of social housing, an issue which is only too evident by statistics in Ireland. She spoke of the lack of access to affordable housing due to problems such as many advocate for treatment for issues such as mental health and substance abuse. However, Dr. Greenwood promote the idea of providing affordable housing to those who need it and providing treatment after. Treatment could be provided on a daily basis and be monitored through their accommodation. Providing housing before treatment promotes citizen participation and protects the human rights to which every person is entitled. That anyone must explain that housing is a fundamental human right shows the need for social housing in Irish society in order to promote inclusion of those who are homeless in communities.

Ben Power, representing the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, brought the impact of social exclusion on the transgender community to the panel. The transgender community has been impacted hugely by unemployment, with rates almost double the national average, and discrimination in the workplace, with Louise Hannon's case bringing transgender rights in the workplace to the forefront of politics. Suicide rates and mental health are issues that are even more highlighted within the transgender community, with suicides rates being over 40%. Promoting awareness, trans* sensitive medical training and pushing for the most progressive gender recognition legislation possible will allow for inclusion in society and aid to eliminate trans*phobia.

The penultimate speaker, Killian Forde, CEO of The Integration Centre, spoke on the blatant racism which penetrates Irish society. Integration of ethnic minorities into Irish society is an extremely challenging issue, with Forde even questioned the lack of the diverse ethnicities in the room of the panel, pointing out that even within an organisation which promotes equality at its core, diversity can still be an issue, with parties being reluctant to put ethnic minorities onto election posters as it may affect their running mates. Solutions to the integration issue are difficult, with no one answer to the question. However, the concept of quotas, both for party staff and candidates will aid the issue of diverse representation in politics.

The final speaker, Aisling Twomey of Pavee Point, outlined the exclusion of the traveller community in Ireland. Twomey pointed out that there is an in-built prejudice in Ireland towards traveller community, even with the recent Facebook page "Waterford Against Roma" gaining over 3000 supporters. Showing online conversations and political literature from as recent as the las local election, the discrimination towards the community is overwhelming. This discriminations affects education for children, produces a high suicide rate within the community and high levels of unemployment based on their ethnicity. While the recent passing of Labour policy to recognise traveller ethnicity, it is simply not enough to promote the social inclusion of this community. With social inclusion being at the core of Labour and its politics, it is something that all members will push to promote. However, hearing the issues faced by different communities in Ireland not only highlights the different aspects of social exclusion but promotes the idea that these diverse communities need to work together in order to create a more just and equal society.

Grace Williams, Chair of UCD Labour.

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