Wicklow woman calls on Government to align global and domestic ambitions

Louise Finan, Chair of Coalition 2030, with report author Sorley McCaughey and Coalition 2030 Steering Committee member Dearbháil Lawless, from Bray, at the launch of the ‘Furthest Behind First, or Falling Behind Further?’ report, in Buswell's Hotel, Dublin.

Tom GalvinBray People

Bray woman Dearbháil Lawless played a key role in the launch of a groundbreaking report outlining how Ireland can reach its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, while focusing on those who are becoming more marginalised in our society as the country continues to develop.

Ms Lawless is CEO of AONTAS, Ireland's National Adult Learning Organisation, and a member of the Coalition 2030 organisation, an alliance of 70 civil society organisations collaborating to ensure Ireland keeps its promise to reach the SDGs by 2030.

The Coalition has just published a new report, called ‘Furthest Behind First, or Falling Behind Further?’, documenting Ireland’s progress on the SDGs from the perspective of those ‘left behind’.

The report parallels the Irish Government’s SDG review, which is due for presentation to the UN in July, and while it praises Ireland's international commitment to the SDGs, calls for those ambitions to be matched at home in relation to issues such as healthcare, education and homelessness.

The report features the real-life stories of people in Ireland who are being “left behind” as the country continues to develop. These include disabled people; current and former residents of the Direct Provision system; people experiencing poverty and homelessness; lone parents; and older people.

Ms Lawless is currently serving as a member of the Coalition’s Steering Committee and attended the report launch in Buswell’s Hotel, in Dublin, on Tuesday, May 9, while also addressing a briefing for members of the Oireachtas in Leinster House.

Commenting on the report launch, Ms Lawless praised the Government for the international leadership it has shown on the SDGs but called for similar action to be demonstrated at home.

“Few countries can claim to have been as influential on the SDGs on the global stage as Ireland,” she said.

“Under Irish and Kenyan leadership, the goals were painstakingly negotiated before being agreed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. Since then, the Government has been a vocal advocate for the SDGs. This summer, Ireland and Qatar will lead a series of high-level discussions in advance of presenting a political declaration at the SDGs Summit in September.

“However, Ireland's international commitment to the SDGs is not matched by the same ambition at home. We remain the only country in western Europe without universal primary healthcare. Our ongoing housing crisis is forcing families into homelessness and creating enormous collective anxiety and stress.

"Our employment rate for people with disabilities is one of the lowest in the EU. Our Direct Provision system violates multiple human rights. And the State is yet to live up to a long-standing promise to contribute 0.7% of Gross National Income to overseas aid,” she said.

“Our failings at domestic level run the risk of undermining Ireland's moral leadership on the SDGs while also contributing to sections of Irish society falling further behind. In the lead-up to the UN Summit this September, the Government has an opportunity to demonstrate real commitment to the SDGs by making policy choices at home that align with their international rhetoric.

“The SDGs provide us with a powerful blueprint and pathway to create a fairer, more environmentally sustainable Ireland, where everyone has access to quality healthcare, quality education, quality housing and does not fear a life lived in poverty.

"Alignment with the SDGs should be the driving objective of State policy from this point forward. We are calling on the Government and the Opposition to ensure that the goals are embedded in all new national policies, in local authorities’ city and county plans, and in the work of community-based structures such as Public Participation Networks, Local Environmental Networks, and Education and Training Boards,” she added.

The key recommendations in the Coalition 2030 report include:

· The appointment by Government of a Future Generations Commissioner to ensure no public policy actions undermine the quality of life of future generations;

· Responsibility for the SDGs to be moved from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to the Department of the Taoiseach;

· All new public policies to be SDG-proofed to ensure they are aligned with the Goals; and

· The annual Budget process to become linked to progressing the SDGs.

Commenting at the report’s launch, its author, Sorley McCaughey, said: “An underlying principle of the SDGs is to ‘reach the furthest behind first’. But the case studies featured in our report show there are many people in Ireland being left even further behind as the country develops. With a General Election to be held by March 2025, and the Goals due to expire in 2030, now is a critical juncture for the Government and opposition parties to put the necessary measures in place to help Ireland play its role in progressing the SDGs and leaving no-one behind.”