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Vote for justice

election_01With the General Election in full swing, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice has called on whoever gets into government to give priority to those who are suffering most in these difficult times. The Centre sees a real opportunity for both people and politicians  to ensure that the common good be the guiding principle for the  measures decided upon  to tackle our many problems. According to Peter McVerry SJ, who works with the Centre, “It will be wholly wrong and a terrible reflection on Irish society if we allow a situation where the people who must survive on the lowest incomes and who depend on the public health and care services, are asked to bear the major part of the burden of rectifying the problems in our public finances.” See full statement below.

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice says that the General Election represents a critically important opportunity for both politicians and people to determine how the problems facing the country are to be dealt with and how the burden of the adjustments that must now be made in living standards, in taxation measures, and in public expenditure programmes is to be distributed. It argues that justice and the common good require that the needs of those who are suffering most in the current recession must take priority over the demands of the more powerful.

Commenting as the Statement was published, Fr Peter McVerry SJ, who works with the Centre, said: “It will be wholly wrong and a terrible reflection on Irish society if we allow a situation where the people who must survive on the lowest incomes and who depend on the public health and care services are asked to bear the major part of the burden of rectifying the problems in our public finances. Many people are now enduring the cumulative effects of reductions in what were already low wages or social welfare payments, alongside the imposition of additional charges, cutbacks in services and longer waiting lists.”

In the Statement, the Jesuit Centre says that a key question concerning the various General Election commitments and plans now being put before the electorate is: “What vision for Irish society is contained in these proposals and what values are reflected in them?” The Centre’s Statement says: “Underlying the boom that led to the current economic crisis was a prioritising of values such as individualism, self-interest, acquisitiveness, and consumerism over values reflecting social concern and social responsibility. A culture of greed took hold in many parts of Irish society.” It is heartening, the Centre  suggests, that there is now more frequent reference in public discussion to values such as ‘the common good’, ‘social solidarity’ and ‘sustainability’.

However, it argues that the mere articulation of such values is in itself of little consequence, unless there is a corresponding determination to take the decisions and measures necessary to give effect to them. “The ‘common good’ does not just happen and ‘solidarity’ and ‘sustainability’ are meaningful only if they find expression in appropriate policies and actions”, the Jesuit Centre says. The Centre also calls on both politicians and the electorate to ensure that the current impetus towards political reform is not allowed to falter once the General Election is over. “The process of political renewal and reform needs to be itself democratic – it must provide opportunities for the maximum number of people to have their say. Furthermore, it must consider and respond to the particular situation of those marginalised communities in our society who feel totally alienated from the political process and so do not vote in any election.”

In a concluding comment, Fr McVerry said that despite the current extraordinarily difficult environment, there are numerous examples throughout the country of determination and resilience on the part of individuals, families and communities. “We need to believe that the current crisis can also be a time when both people and politicians are prepared to think and act more radically. With good leadership, and the adoption of responses to the crisis that are both effective and fair, hope can be restored and we can seek to build a better society, one where the promotion of the common good – which is, after all, referred to in our Constitution – really does become the guiding principle for economic and social policies and for the conduct of political life.” The Statement by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice is available at: www.jcfj.ie