On the week when Ireland celebrated 101 years since the Easter Rising when Irishmen and women fought for freedom, Social Justice Ireland has proclaimed that a new social contract is now needed as the old one is broken. The 1916 Proclamation declared “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The historic document guaranteed “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens.

Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Tom Clarke the other signatories, and many brave young men and women believed that these were ideals worth dying for. Not so, it seems, subsequent generations and their political leaders. According to Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, “The legitimate expectations of citizens are not being met.” Dr Healy says this is most obvious when it comes to housing and homelessness, a two-tier healthcare system, high levels of poverty and social exclusion, especially among children”.

Speaking at the launch of SJI’s annual review for 2017 entitled ‘A New Social Contract for a New Century’, Dr Healy said, “2017 is the first year of a new century for Ireland and now is the perfect opportunity to develop a new and radical social contract for Ireland’s second century”. According to Dr Healy, a progressive social contract is one where Government works in the interest of all, where social cohesion and the common good are the primary measures of progress, and the economy is nurtured for the benefit of society.

Social Justice Ireland’s proposals focus on five key outcomes:
• a vibrant economy which works for the benefit of society;
• decent services and infrastructure which are accessible to all;
• a fair taxation system to support our social and economic infrastructure;
• good governance which facilitates everyone having a say in decisions that affect them;
• sustainability – meaning that development is balanced across the regions and progress is measured in terms of social cohesion and the common good.

“Put simply,” said Dr Healy, “the key questions are: what standard of living do people want and expect, and what infrastructure, services and resources are required to deliver this?” The review argues that a social contract should set out the expectations, rights, and responsibilities of all parts of society. Everyone is expected to contribute to the common good, economically, socially or culturally, on the assumption that the State will provide a minimum standard of living, essential social services and infrastructure and the protection of basic rights.

According to the document, “the strength of a democracy is defined by the strength of its social contract and the quality of life and wellbeing of its citizens.  People expect a well-run economy; good governance; a state that acts in the interests of its people; and they expect to have a say on the issues that affect them. They expect society to provide them with decent services and infrastructure. They also expect that decisions being made are aimed at securing fairness across generations and a sustainable future.”

Dr Seán Healy said, “We have an opportunity now to develop and agree on a new social contract and how it should be delivered.  Social Justice Ireland believes that at the heart of this new social contract is a belief that benefits derived from things like technological development, economic growth, and societal advancement are shared.  A real republic will stand for social justice and for equality. Social Justice Ireland calls on leadership from all sectors of Irish society to become part of a debate on a new social contract for a new century.”