Zappone calls for a debate on the human rights impact of tax and fiscal policies (video)

19.02.2015

Order of Business, Seanad Eireann February 12th, 2015

Senator Zappone called for a debate on the impact of taxation and fiscal policy on human rights. She stated that Investing in society should mean that Irish citizens' fundamental rights to health, education and social protection would come first, not last. She questioned why the Government refuses to put the issue of a constitutional guarantee for economic and social rights to the people, as the Constitutional Convention recommended. The leader of the Seanad will ask Minister for Finance, or the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, to attend the House to debate this issue.

Read Senator Zappone's full speech here. 

I have just come from a conference sponsored by Christian Aid on the human rights impact of tax and fiscal policies. The Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, gave the opening address and was followed by Professor Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. It is a very significant conference, especially in the light of the fact that all political parties and Independents are shaping their approaches to taxation and fiscal policies in the run-up to the next general election. I wonder how many of the manifestoes that will be drawn up shortly will include a section on human rights and the explicit link between human rights and taxation policy, as emphasised at length by Professor Alston. Let us hope all of the political parties and those in formation and the Independents will include one.

  I call for a debate with the Minister of State on the human rights impact of tax and fiscal policies. Ireland is at a critical juncture and such a debate would necessarily raise again one of the most fundamental questions all political parties must answer: is this an economy or a society? This morning the Minister of State said economic recovery must be society-led, with which I agree, but what does that actually mean? He said we needed to invest in the economy in order that we could do something with it. That is a traditional and tired economic model. I heard that Fine Gael was going to offer the people a new model. What is meant by "a new model"? A new model is not investing in the economy in order that one can do something with it but investing in society to have a healthy economy. We need a Copernican turn to our model. Investing in society would mean Irish citizens' fundamental rights to health, education and social protection would come first, not last. The Minister of State said Ireland invested in these things, but the Government refuses to put the issue of a constitutional guarantee for economic and social rights to the people, as the Constitutional Convention recommended. When we invest in the economy, job creation, multinationals, research and development, knowledge boxes, etc., we need to do so in a way that will not increase income and wealth inequality, domestically or internationally, and all that flows from this. Please let us have a debate on tax justice and the human rights impact of tax and fiscal policies soon. Within this debate let us hear from the Government on why it will not put question of guaranteeing the economic and social rights of citizens to them to decide.

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