In recent years, both parts of Ireland underwent a deep economic crisis that impacted on employment, incomes and social infrastructure. Although levels of prosperity exceed those of earlier generations, inequality in the ownership of wealth and in the distribution of income is likely to have increased – at least before taxes and social transfers are taken into account. Future trends in economic well-being are uncertain as Ireland adjusts to a rapidly changing world. Continuing shocks in areas such as banking, property prices, unemployment and energy supply and cost – to mention only some – are likely to constitute sources of stress for social cohesion, democracy and sustainable economies.
This paper reviews the key economic and associated social challenges in the coming three decades and suggests an overarching framework to better understand:
- Why the cycle of bust and boom has not been abolished;
- What options and choices are open to communities in each part of the island; and
- How synergies on an all-island (Ireland) and cross-island (Ireland and Great Britain) basis be harnessed.
The paper is intended as a contribution to a debate on our economic future and how we can achieve very different outcomes to those experienced up to now. Underlying a vision for the 2040’s is an emphasis on:
- Human rights – economic and social; and
- Security and sustainability of economic well-being which transcend conventional measures of economic prosperity.
This paper is not intended as a blueprint or a set model to be applied or rolled out. Rather, it suggests a different way of approaching public policy based on different norms and values – in practice – to those incorporated into public decision-making in the recent decades.
Although constituting two separate jurisdictions with very different characteristics and policy institutions, the Paper seeks to identify a unified perspective for the whole island and its relationship to the neighbouring island. This is without prejudice to the existing or future constitutional arrangements and preferences of any country or part thereof.
Dr Tom Healy