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South and Mid-West Suppo

Ireland lags behind Euro supporting voluntary w INTRODUCTION: The Irish voluntary sector remains one of the least developed in Europe. On most of the key indices, we run below the rest of Europe. For example, the density of voluntary organisations (here) is about half that of Northern Ireland. In a speech delivered to community workers and volunteers at a conference in Tralee, Brian Harvey appealed to people to draw inspiration from Europe and to reclaim a sense of Civil Society. He said that all the analyses of social policy show that where the state invests well in voluntary and community organisations and civil society, we get a better quality of social policy. Conversely, where the state does not do so, we get a poorer outcome and that is what we have here. Here is an edited version of his speach:

Guest speaker Brian Harvey

The law (elsewhere) says to consult A recent study of the voluntary and community sector working with older people in Ireland shows that such organisations are rarely consulted by the state. In most European countries, they have to be by law. This is not to say that there is not a community development movement in Ireland. Clearly there is, it is effective in antipoverty work, committed and good people work therein and the language of antipoverty community development work has achieved a certain level of recognition and acceptance. But only a certain level.

Programme good enough to copy

Veronica Bon, support agency worker, deep in discussion with Joan O’Flynn of Combat Poverty.

The Community Development Programme is undoubtedly a good model and it has inspired the setting up now of a similar programme in Northern Ireland. (However), the programme, having expanded hugely and beyond anyone’s best hopes has been declared closed, as if community development can ever have finite boundaries. One of the hard lessons arising about the experience of community development and anti-poverty work is just how limited an impact community development can have when state economic and social policies do not also address and confront policy.

Cohesion was a curious exercise

Brian Harvey was a guest-speaker at the conference ‘Community development - a tool for anti poverty work in Ireland’, hosted by the South and Mid-West Community Development Support Agency, Brandon Hotel, Tralee, on January 30th. changing ireland

The cohesion process launched several years ago to coordinate voluntary and community services was always a curious exercise, if indeed it was about cohesion at all. But if it was about control and reminding those voluntary and community services of their place then it is easier to understand. At the risk of reminding ourselves of the obvious, Ireland has one of the highest rates of relative poverty in the European Union, the lowest proportion of spending on social protection, the only primary health service not free at point of first use, some of the worst social indicators in the Union and one of highest rates of income inequality. This is no accident, for it is the outcome of economic and social choices made by government and, it has to be said, the people who elected and re-elected them. Especially in our health services, our

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government perversely looks to the model of the United States, a country which has achieved the worst social outcomes in health in the western hemisphere, although the highest profits.

Community development marginalised In the face of these realities, community development can offer only marginal improvements (for) groups and communities living in deprivation. That does not mean that community development has not achieved something, it has, those humanitarian gains have been important and they hold out the promise of what more can be achieved. By contrast, if we look at successful European countries, community development and enlightened social policy have gone hand in hand. Eg Scandinavia. So, what hope is there that anti-poverty work here can emerge from its dark valley?

Draw inspiration from Europe There is abundant inspiration to be drawn from the example of community development anti-poverty work in other parts of the European Union. There, they have been greatly helped by the re-emergence of the concept of civil society. Such territory has not yet been won here: We recall the brief work of the Centre for Public Inquiry which was a non-governmental organisation investigating corruption in Irish society. The Minister for Justice not only, in American military parlance, took out the

an old one: what do you call a fly without wings? - a walk!

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