COVID-19’s Impact on Ireland
After introducing one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, Ireland ranked first on Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in September 2021. According to the Financial Post, “Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking scores the largest 53 economies on their success at containing the virus with the least amount of social and economic disruption.” Ireland’s high vaccination rates and economic plans likely contribute to it securing the first-place ranking. By September 10, 2021, 90% of Ireland’s adult population was fully vaccinated. However, as Ireland slowly eases its restrictions, there are concerns that COVID-19’s impact on Ireland may be lasting.

COVID-19’s Far-Reaching Impact

By November 27, 2021, Ireland reported more than 556,000 COVID-19 cases and 5,652 deaths. However, the death toll is not the only measurement of COVID-19’s impact on Ireland. As the government attempts to combat the pandemic, there is evidence that COVID-19 also impacts Ireland in several other ways:

  1. High unemployment rates plague Ireland. In 2020, the unemployment rate in Ireland reached an all-time high of 31.5%. However, despite COVID-19’s impact on Ireland last year, unemployment has dropped to 7.9% in October 2021. Ireland’s Finance Ministry estimates that the rate will reduce further to 7.2% in 2022.
  2. COVID-19 harshly impacts certain industries. Across the world, the tourism and hospitality sectors faced the most severe impacts of COVID-19. Border closures, travel restrictions and limitations on gatherings significantly impact these sectors. According to the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, in April 2020, about 90% of hotel staff in Northern Ireland were “furloughed or laid off.”
  3. COVID-19 impacts education in Ireland. In September 2021, Irish schools noted a high absence of school children due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases. In the second week of September alone, 12,000 children in Ireland missed school because of close contact with COVID-19 positive individuals. One official describes the school system as “overwhelmed,” prompting the Northern Ireland Assembly to schedule an urgent meeting to address the situation.
  4. Ireland’s health care system is under pressure. A sudden surge in COVID-19 cases has led to absent health care workers. In October 2021, approximately 2,700 infected health workers did not attend work due to COVID-19. The decreasing staff numbers in hospitals has major consequences. Hospitals across Ireland had to cancel more than 400 medical procedures in October 2021 due to staff shortages.

A Hopeful Look to the Future

Despite COVID-19’s Impact on Ireland, hope is on the horizon. In June 2021, the Irish government revealed its National Economic Recovery Plan. The plan commits €3.6 billion to assist employees and businesses enduring the harsh impacts of COVID-19. The plan also involves “a phased ending to pandemic unemployment payments, property tax increases for some and an emphasis on the green economy.”

One of the plan’s most salient features is its attempt to combat the unemployment rate. The plan extends the Public Employment service, increasing its caseload by 100,000 per year. The strategy also supports the upskilling and reskilling of the labor force. The plan also seeks to increase incentives for recruiting unemployed youth.

In October 2021, the Irish unemployment rate fell to a level of 10%, which is the nation’s lowest rate since the inception of the pandemic. The represents a sharp decline from not just the previous month’s 12.4% unemployment rate but also the 31% all-time high from the previous year. In addition, the youth unemployment rate is falling and the Central Bank predicts that Ireland’s recovery plan could create 160,000 jobs before the end of 2023.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

Irish Aid
Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, announced an additional €2 million in Irish Aid support less than two months after the initial €1 million, crediting the severity of the “rapidly deteriorating humanitarian [need] in Afghanistan” as the reason for the additional support. In children under the age of 5 years old, there is a high level of food insecurity and the risk of malnutrition. Minister Brophy stated in the press release that “One in three Afghans is facing crisis levels of food insecurity and more than half of all children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.”

Ireland Aid Can Make International Changes

The aid that Ireland is providing has the potential to save lives and serve as a model for other countries to follow. Showing the actual impact of aid on Afghan refugees can also spark a positive reflection on the Afghan community, rather than the negative connection from recent conflicts.

Only a month prior, Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney announced €1 million in Irish aid for humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. This initial assistance was in addition to the €2 million that the HALO Trust, Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH) and Concern Worldwide received at the start of 2021.

The funds will go to UNICEF and the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH). The AFH assists with the health, education and nutrition of the Afghan people.

Changing Visa Policies

On top of the Irish Aid support, Ireland has extended its refugee visas policy for up to another 150 Afghan people under the Irish Refugee Protection Program (IRPP). Ireland strongly condemns the violent action against the people of Afghanistan, especially the attacks against women and children.

It has called for safe and reliable access to humanitarian needs in Afghanistan for Aghani citizens and those who work with U.N. agencies and humanitarian partners, without exemptions. This means that even those across conflict lines must get the humanitarian access they need for safety.

Refugee Visas to Make a Difference

Ireland, which many know for its strong advocacy for women and girls, is attempting to play a role in relocating some Afghan women and girls to Ireland. There will be a priority for those who work in human rights issues and those who work with NGOs, including European and international organizations. Family reunification is also at the top of Ireland’s list in regard to the 150 refugee visas.

This is not the only way for Afghans to obtain refugee visas. There are a few protocols in place that help Afghans obtain refugee visas as long as they meet or find a way to meet the criteria. According to the 2015 International Protection Act, if an Afghani person already knows someone in Ireland who can handle their international protection application or if they have someone who will meet them at the border, they are exempt from the application fee. Deportation has also experienced less strict enforcement since COVID-19. Given the current state of Afghanistan, there is no clear answer to whether someone would experience deportation.

At the end of the day, Ireland is doing everything it can to assist with the humanitarian need in Afghanistan. In this time of crisis, it uses funds, policies and aid to do what it can. By expanding its visa list to accept more refugees, Ireland demonstrates that it will do everything possible to assist another country’s crisis.

– Veronica G. Rosas
Photo: Unsplash


Human trafficking is a global problem. Unfortunately, human trafficking in Ireland worsened in the last few years. The U.S. Department of State ranks countries on a three-tier system when it comes to human trafficking. In 2020, Ireland dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2 watchlist because the country does not meet the minimum standards. However, Ireland is making efforts to eliminate trafficking. Here are four facts about human trafficking in Ireland.

1. In Western Europe, Ireland is the Only Country on the Tier 2 Watchlist.

Ireland now stands with areas of the world like Hong Kong and Romania on the tiered system. In Ireland, the trafficking problem progressively worsened. In 2012, the An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) detected or reported 48 victims, “44 in 2013, 46 in 2014, 78 in 2015 and 95 in 2016.” However, while human trafficking in Ireland intensifies, the rest of Western Europe remains at a higher tier designation.

Additionally, the Irish government did not report on the victims. Yet, the U.S. State Department’s report pointed out that “traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking within the country.” Sr Kathleen Bryant, a charity worker, believes Ireland is in “denial” about sex trafficking. She speculates that Ireland cannot admit that Irish people are exploiting one another.

2. Sexual Exploitation Exists Within Human Trafficking in Ireland.

The majority of victims are women. Sadly, the majority of these victims experience sexual exploitation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime observed that the majority of human trafficking victims in Ireland are victims of sexual exploitation.

Recently, authorities found two women in Ireland guilty of human trafficking. They ran a prostitution ring in Ireland, and their victims journeyed from Nigeria only to experience exploitation in Ireland. One victim described herself as a “sex machine.” Sexual exploitation is a large component of human trafficking in Ireland. The U.N. report shows that 194 victims suffer from sexual abuse by 2016. Additionally, 108 people were victims of forced labor.

3. Labor Trafficking Exists in Ireland.

Besides sex trafficking, labor trafficking is prevalent in Ireland as well. There are at least 8,000 people in Ireland working as slave labor. The traffickers coerce and manipulate people into traveling to Ireland. They work in “the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture and car-washing services.” In particular, many accuse the fishing industry of exploiting migrant workers. The current system leaves migrants with only one employment option, consequently, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

4. Ruhama is Fighting Human Trafficking in Ireland.

NGOs are fighting to eliminate human trafficking in Ireland. For example, the NGO, Ruhama, is working to give support to victims of human sex trafficking. The U.S. State Department report mentions how the Irish government does a poor job of identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking. Ruhama fills that gap by providing free and confidential assistance to women who are victims of sex trafficking.

Additionally, Ruhama has been lobbying and campaigning to change the systems that allow sex trafficking to happen. Ruhama began in 1989, and it helps thousands of women stuck in prostitution and sex trafficking. Ruhama’s 2019 annual report revealed that Ruhama worked with 116 victims of sex trafficking. Ruhama implements casework, Education & Development Programme, Outreach, Counselling, Bridge to Work, Holistic Therapies and Policy Work to help these women. Ruhama also played a significant part in lobbying for the 2017 Sexual Offences Act which intends to help sex trafficking victims.

Western Europe is one of the wealthiest parts of the world. Yet, human trafficking in Ireland illustrates how poverty around the globe creates problems that spread to every corner of society. Through better government oversight and continued work from organizations like Ruhama, Ireland could eventually regain its Tier 1 status.

– Mike Messina
Photo: Flickr

McDonalds Combats Global PovertyFounded in 1955, McDonald’s is one of the largest fast-food companies in the world. Renowned for its burgers and fries, McDonald’s currently offers a variety of food options in 118 different countries. As a result, the company operates more than 38,000 restaurants, employs millions of people and garners billions of dollars in revenue every year. Considering the fast-food giant’s worldwide presence, it is in a unique position to help impoverished communities around the world. Recognizing this, McDonald’s combats global poverty in several ways.

5 Ways McDonald’s Combats Global Poverty

  1. McDonald’s is one of the top employers in the world. According to Forbes, McDonald’s currently employs more than 1.9 million people worldwide. The only employers that outrank McDonald’s are the U.S. Department of Defense (3.2 million employees), China’s People’s Liberation Army (2.3 million employees) and Walmart (2.1 million employees). McDonald’s gives people around the world an opportunity to earn a living, work toward advancement opportunities and escape poverty.
  2. McDonald’s prioritizes employee education and advancement. In 2018, Mcdonald’s expanded its Archways to Opportunity program, an education initiative available to “restaurant employees in 25 countries.” The program allows employees “the opportunity to graduate from college, earn a high school diploma, learn English as a second language, complete an apprenticeship and gain access to advising services.” In Australia alone, more than 48,000 certifications have been awarded as of April 30, 2021.
  3. McDonald’s joined the European Alliance for Apprenticeships. Along with several other companies, McDonald’s supports the European Alliance for Apprenticeship’s mission to “improve access to vocational training” throughout Europe. Apprenticeships are important because they allow young people to acquire practical job experience and on-the-job skills to increase their chances of employment. Overall, in Europe, McDonald’s and other companies committed “to offer 45,000 apprenticeships by 2025.” These apprenticeships will take place in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.
  4. McDonald’s supports Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). RMHC is a nonprofit organization that “creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and their families.” RMHC runs 260 Chapters in 62 nations around the world. These programs assist families with ill children by providing free accommodation near the medical center so that families can afford to be present while their child receives medical care. Additionally, the nonprofit organization Meals From The Heart works closely with McDonald’s and RMHC to provide families with freshly cooked meals during their stay. Overall, RMHC aims to offer a housing option to families experiencing financial hardship due to child medical bills.
  5. McDonald’s donated food during the COVID-19 pandemic. McDonald’s partnered with organizations, including Food Donation Connection and the Global FoodBanking Network (GFN), to donate food surpluses to families in need around the world. For example, McDonald’s donated eggs, bread and milk to struggling families in Ireland, England, Germany and Italy. Additionally, McDonald’s donated 250,000 pounds worth of food to Canadian food banks and NGOs. The company also gave thousands of liters of milk to migrant workers in Singapore.

A Significant Impact

Overall, McDonald’s combats global poverty by financing and supporting education, housing and food aid programs around the world. Despite economic and financial challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s support for communities abroad never weaned. McDonald’s continues to have a significant impact around the world by combating global poverty and helping those in need.

– Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in northern IrelandPrior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the official percentage of children in Northern Ireland living in relative poverty was 22%. Although this is slightly lower than the 2018/2019 estimate of 24%, the raw number this figure translates to is staggering: approximately 100,000 children are living in relative poverty. While child poverty in Northern Ireland was decreasing, the pandemic will likely spark a long-term rise. The Resolution Foundation estimates that an additional 13,000 children could fall into poverty within the next four years. Fortunately, the government and major nonprofit organizations are working to address this issue.

Key Government Steps

The government has taken steps to minimize the effects of the pandemic on child poverty in Northern Ireland. For starters, the Minister for Communities committed to continuing welfare mitigations from the beginning of the pandemic. Additionally, the department also announced the extension of the 2016-2019 Poverty Strategy to May 2022, allowing for more thorough, long-term engagement in addressing child poverty.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education adopted a “cash-first” approach for free school meals. This reduced the burden for impoverished families by ensuring their children received food at school. Additionally, the government helped thousands of children with a “£20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits.” This policy is part of the government’s ongoing support to local charities in Northern Ireland’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

Action for Children

Action for Children is a U.K. children’s charity aimed at helping Ireland’s most vulnerable children and adolescents. The charity’s widespread impact throughout the last year cannot be understated as it has supported more than 15,500 children and families. The charity has helped grow the Belfast fostering service and support children at risk of homelessness. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in providing mental health support outlets, helping to improve the emotional wellbeing of children suffering from the effects of poverty. The efforts of Action for Children positively impact children across the country.

Save the Children

Save the Children, a leading humanitarian aid organization for children, has also played an essential role in fighting child poverty in Northern Ireland. During the past year, in collaboration with local groups, the organization has provided vouchers that cover the costs of essential household items and food to help more than 3,900 children. Additionally, Save the Children has produced child poverty reports that include survey data and interviews with suffering families. The Northern Irish government is utilizing these reports to help it determine what anti-poverty policies to implement next.

Proposed Steps for Further Action

Save the Children outlined a list of recommendations in its 2021 report on child poverty in Northern Ireland. The report proposes that the government should take three key steps:

  • Strengthen the welfare mitigations package, including providing added packages for families that are not part of the two-child welfare limit.
  • Initiate the policies put forward by the Anti-Poverty Expert Advisory Panel for the Anti-Poverty Strategy.
  • Continue to support the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by extending it beyond the current cut-off point, which is September 2021.

Moving forward, it is essential that the government take these recommendations and others into consideration. With continued efforts by the Northern Irish government and humanitarian organizations such as Action for Children and Save the Children, child poverty in Northern Ireland will hopefully decrease in the coming years, in spite of the pandemic.

– Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Youth homelessness in IrelandIreland has been working to reduce homelessness and improve emergency services for its disadvantaged citizens for years. Current structures and policies help the homeless but leave out the struggling youth. The forgotten young people of Ireland have been ignored by social housing programs and blocked from receiving full welfare payments. To end youth homelessness in Ireland, the government is looking at the gaps in policies that allow young people to slip into poverty.

The Problem

Youth homelessness in Ireland has increased by 90% in the last three years, leaving more than 850 people aged 18-24 without a place to call home. Just five years earlier, only 450 young adults were homeless, exemplifying the growing issue in Ireland. The Department of Housing Planning, Community and Local Government (DHPCLG) provides these statistics, but the data is incomplete.

In addition to these figures, there is also a prevalence of the “hidden homeless” among Irish youth. The hidden homeless include those couch surfing, squatting or residing anywhere that is not sustainable. Because these young homeless people are not utilizing state services or shelters, they are excluded from data on youth homelessness in Ireland.

In 2016, the number of young people still living at home with their parents increased by 19%, reflecting the rise in rent and lack of affordable housing available. However, children that come from broken, abusive or absent families have no one to care for them once they reach 18.

The Tusla Child and Family Agency cares for homeless or impoverished minors. However, just like parents, they have no legal responsibility to take care of the children after the age of 18. These policies neglect to account for transition periods, leaving young people alone the moment they reach legal adulthood.

The Cause of Youth Homelessness in Ireland

Currently, Ireland’s approach to its homeless situation is mostly emergency, reactive services. To reduce youth homelessness in Ireland, the focus must pivot to prevention and intervention for at-risk young people. The factors that force young people into homelessness often begin in their childhoods. They experience poverty, traumatic life events, family conflict and general instability from a young age and are not given the tools to transition successfully into adulthood.

Young people are at the bottom of the list to get accommodations in social housing. After being bounced around between social housing, emergency shelters and other temporary government accommodations, young people often give up on the system because they become tired of the repeated placement circuit. Landlords often reject young people due to a lack of finances and references or simply because they find young tenants undesirable. This age discrimination is one of the main causes of youth homelessness in Ireland.

The Consequences for Homeless Youth

Citizens younger than the age of 26 are not eligible for full welfare payments and can only receive reduced payments, if they receive anything. Stifling the financial welfare of people from such young age rather than offering support leads to long-term poverty and increased homelessness in the community. Two-thirds of young homeless people in Ireland reside in Dublin. Here, many living spaces are used as Airbnbs. As more short-term rentals pop up and crowd the city with tourists, more young citizens are forced to sleep on the streets.

A six-year study into youth homelessness in Ireland focused on 40 young people between the ages of 14 and 22. The majority of these participants came from situations where they experienced trauma and severe poverty, leading them to drop out of school early. More than half of the participants in the study reported they had tried heroin and have a criminal record, showing the severe consequences when disadvantaged young adults have no support system. Most of them had experienced homelessness by the age of 15, illustrating the need for early intervention in these tumultuous situations.

The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness

The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness in Ireland is comprised of 16 organizations and charities dedicated to getting young people off the streets. This issue has been forgotten for many years. Still, all of these organizations are stepping up to end the neglect of the country’s young and bring awareness to the issue.

The Coalition to End Youth Homelessness recommends the Irish Government invest in mediation, counseling and mentoring services for minors that live in instability. Through intervening in difficult family situations early, the government can provide tools to children to facilitate a smooth transition from a rocky childhood to successful adulthood.

Housing First for Youth

Housing First for Youth offers safe housing for young adults ages 18-24 and ongoing aftercare. The organization also supports the full transition into adult life. Without an aftercare plan and a sense of support, the odds of a young individual falling back into homelessness are high. Housing First for Youth facilitates positive, supportive relationships between the young homeless and their caseworkers, ensuring youth feel less alone in the world.

To help young people exit homelessness and live independently, they need safe housing and continued support. There are currently no social housing programs specifically for young individuals. There are risks when young people reside in accommodations inhabited by adults including intimidation, exploitation and exposure to criminal behaviors.

Efforts From Other Organizations

Other organizations in Ireland have recognized the prevalence of youth homelessness and made efforts to provide safe spaces and support for disadvantaged young people. Good Shepard Cork caters to homeless individuals ages 15-19, specifically focusing on women and children that are susceptible to fall back into homelessness. Continued support is essential to ending youth homelessness in Ireland and lifting these young people out of poverty permanently.

The six-year study published by the Health Research Board illustrates the effects of an impoverished childhood. By conducting research such as this long-term study, officials can pinpoint the early causes that lead to a life of poverty and find ways to intervene. Ensuring that struggling youth remain in school and receive ongoing support can help to reduce youth homelessness in Ireland.

Prioritizing Homeless Youth

Investing in community and school-based prevention methods has helped reduce youth homelessness by 40% in Australia and Canada. To reduce youth homelessness in Ireland, the government must follow their lead and pivot toward prevention rather than emergency services. By prioritizing the homeless youth in government policies and services, the state can prevent long-term homelessness and reduce overall poverty rates in the country.

Veronica Booth
Photo: Unsplash

Irish Aid in Vietnam
The S-shaped country of Vietnam has many picturesque sights to behold. Rice paddies stretch out over the Mekong and Red River Deltas that run through the country. Vietnam’s geography includes hills and various elevations with only 20% of the country being flat. Despite the beauty of Vietnam, the people in the country find themselves in need of aid. Since 2005, Ireland has been providing much-needed assistance to Vietnam. Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade runs the Irish Aid Programme. Irish Aid in Vietnam has provided various forms of assistance for the Vietnamese people.

Irish Aid’s Support of Ethnic Minorities

The aid that Ireland offered to Vietnam has given support to numerous sectors within the country. Sectors working with Irish Aid include human rights, agriculture, education and health. From 2011 to 2016, Irish Aid spent 17 million Euros on its Vietnam Country Strategy. One goal that the organization is working toward is the inclusion and provision of sustainable development for the various ethnic minorities that live in Vietnam. The largest of all the ethnic groups in Vietnam is the Kinh, otherwise known as the Viet. There are 53 other ethnic groups outside the Kinh that vary in how much of Vietnam’s population they make up.

Through the Irish embassy in Vietnam, Irish Aid has been addressing the needs that these ethnic groups need to better improve their quality of life. These needs include access to basic nutrition and gender empowerment. Irish Aid determines the needs of these ethnic groups by working with them and partnering with NGOs that are active in Vietnam.

Results of Irish Aid in Vietnam

Vietnam has made many improvements in various areas over the years. Life expectancy in Vietnam rose from 70 years to 76.25 just from 2005 to 2016 according to the World Bank. The stunting rate for children under the age of 5-years-old in Vietnam declined by 5% in only five years. In 2010, the stunting rate was at 29.3% and by 2014, it declined to 24.9%. Some of the work of Irish Aid in Vietnam has benefited the Vietnamese people as well. For one, the program was able to finish 60 different infrastructure projects that improved living conditions for the various ethnic minorities residing in Vietnam. Irish Aid also assisted with landmine removal across a distance of 879,431 meters.

Irish Aid held 132 landmine education sessions that taught about the dangers of landmines in Vietnam. These sessions helped to educate 38,124 children. Lastly, Irish Aid helped 400 people with disabilities in gaining employment or an improved living situation.

Despite the hardships for the people living in Vietnam, Irish Aid continues to assist. Not only has the organization provided aid, but its work has and is having a positive impact on the people of Vietnam.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Ireland
According to the Human Development Index (HDI), Ireland is the second most developed country. The index ranks countries based on life expectancy, schooling and gross national income. However, the number of people with mental illness in Ireland is among the highest in Europe. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened mental health in Ireland.

Pre-Pandemic Conditions

In 2016, records indicated that 18.5% of the Irish population had a mental health illness. In 2018, The Irish Times ran an article about the prevalence of mental health issues. The paper reported that mental health problems cost the Irish economy over €8.2 billion a year. This is equal to roughly $9.9 billion in the United States. The report stated that one in six individuals in Europe received a mental illness diagnosis in 2016 and that more than 84,000 deaths were due to mental illness or suicide in 2015.

Stigma has a vastly negative impact on mental illnesses in Ireland. Just like in many other countries, those with mental illness fear ridicule and isolation. This can delay people in getting the help they need. Although programs to try and lessen the stigma have been circulating over the years, stigma remains an issue that prevents those who need help from getting it.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Mental Health in Ireland

An article from the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, published in May 2020, identified health needs that could occur and require addressing during four waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first wave of the pandemic, the idea was that Ireland’s health system should prepare to address health needs that would emerge during the subsequent waves.

The article determined that during the second wave of the pandemic, people would not seek medical care due to a fear they would become infected with COVID-19. In fact, many people with non-serious conditions and preexisting mental health conditions held off from attending regularly scheduled appointments.

Estimates have determined that the fourth wave will be the largest and longest phase of the pandemic. It is not likely to peak until months after the other phases and could continue for months after COVID-19 infections start dropping. In this fourth wave, the healthcare industry could see many new mental illness cases. Indeed, these could involve those mourning COVID-19 losses, frontline workers under stress, COVID-19 survivors and more. There will also likely be many cases of relapse among those who already struggled with mental health illnesses before the pandemic.

In Ireland, the funding for mental health services has remained low, especially compared with other countries. Compared to New Zealand and the United Kingdom, which both have 12% of the overall health budget allocated to mental health services, Ireland allocates roughly 6%. Investments and innovation are urgent to ensure that people do not overwhelm mental health services. Moreover, it is essential that professionals can respond accordingly when necessary. A survey of 195 psychiatrists in Ireland found that there was an increased number of referrals for anxiety disorders and depression as of 2021.

Solutions

Ireland added another €1 billion to the healthcare budget for 2020. This funding went toward extending free childcare and providing additional employment for therapists and nurses. The additional therapists could help curb the state of mental health in Ireland.

In addition, Ireland’s budget for 2021 includes another €4 billion for healthcare. Additionally, new mental health services will receive €38 million in funding. The plan will be for the enhancement of mental health community teams, child and adolescent mental health services, crisis resolution services, development of clinical care programs and investment in peer support workers and employment supports.

Mental illness in Ireland is a pronounced issue to society, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened it. The increase in funding for healthcare in the budget shows that the government has taken steps towards improving mental health services. It may take time to overcome the hurdles pertaining to mental health, but Ireland is making an effort.

– Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

Ireland's Foreign AidIreland, with a population of approximately five million, has dedicated time and resources to alleviating poverty and hunger. The country’s “A Better World” policy has been a focus of Irish Aid, the government’s official foreign aid program. Ireland’s foreign aid works closely with many countries, prioritizing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, through development partnerships with local governments and communities and other international aid programs.

Irish Aid

Ireland’s foreign aid, better known as Irish Aid continues to provide development aid and assistance for the most impoverished communities in the world. The Humanitarian Programme Plan is one of the main sources of funding for Irish Aid’s work with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In 2020, the budget was more than €15.8 million in order to maintain strong partnerships with NGOs while providing humanitarian assistance and emergency relief.

The Rapid Response Corps (RRC) is a group of 120 highly trained members that goes to communities for emergency response aid and crisis management. Irish Aid formed Standby Agreements for the RRC with four U.N. humanitarian agencies: The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Working with these organizations, Ireland’s foreign aid has resulted in more than 400 Rapid Response Corps deployments since 2007.

A Better World

Ireland’s newest foreign policy, “A Better World,” aims to promote sustainability and peace while providing developmental assistance and protecting human rights. Launched by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney, this foreign aid policy is an example of how the Irish government is committing itself to “reaching the U.N. target of allocating 0.7% of our GNI to official development assistance by 2030.”

This new policy mainly focuses on gender equality, adequate governance and combating poverty. In addition, it aims to maintain partnerships with prominent aid programs and organizations to prioritize violence and conflict prevention, health and education, food sustainability and humanitarian crises. This policy will, therefore, ensure support to the most impoverished communities in the world through trackable funding, partnerships and emergency response.

Visible Impact

Because Ireland’s foreign aid has provided support and resources for some of the world’s impoverished communities, progress is visible. Irish Aid’s successes are notable, including a recent project providing access to education for girls in Zambia through a partnership with Campaign for Female Education. The project has supported marginalized girls with resources, funding and training while also breaking down the barriers barring girls from their right to an education. Another prominent impact of Ireland’s foreign aid is its commitment to clean and affordable energy. Irish Aid headed the National Cookstove Steering committee that provides cookstoves to individuals in Malawi as a solution to reduce deforestation and the health impacts of open fire cooking.

Irish Aid and the “A Better World” policy emphasize the importance of creating equal opportunities for impoverished communities by providing support to fight poverty and hunger as well as several other key global issues affecting the world today. Ireland has made immense strides in prioritizing foreign aid in the hope to join the fight for poverty alleviation.

Caroline Pierce
Photo: Flickr

Gender Pay Gap in IrelandThe gender pay gap in Ireland has been a problem for decades. This issue has continued to persist despite legislative efforts in the past. However, in 2019, Ireland passed the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill to amend previous legislation on the matter. The bill requires employers to make known any pay differences between female and male employees and to take action to address unjustified differences. Supporters of the bill hope that it will force employers to acknowledge and close the pay gap. It is important to recognize how far Ireland has come toward rectifying inequality, acknowledging the poverty it can induce.

History of the Gender Pay Gap in Ireland

Gender equality policies in Ireland were implemented when Ireland joined the European Economic Committee (EEC) in the 1970s. In 1973, women made up only 27% of Ireland’s workforce. As a result of joining the EEC, Ireland dropped the marriage bar for women working in civil service occupations. The marriage bar forced employed women to resign from their jobs once married. The bar was clearly discriminatory and to the disadvantage of women. Joining the EU also helped Ireland integrate more women into the workforce through gender mainstreaming on all government projects supported by the EU. Gender mainstreaming requires equal opportunities for men and women. Eventually, Ireland extended gender mainstreaming to state projects as well. By 2018, 77.2% of women in Ireland were working.

Unfortunately, despite increased representation in the workforce, the pay gap between men and women did not diminish. Before the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill, the government passed extensive legislation to try to minimize the gap. This includes the Anti-Discrimination Pay Act of 1974 and the Employment Equality Act of 1998. Yet, the pay gap remained substantial.

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was supposed to regulate the pay gap between men and women. However, employers were able to get around this by changing women’s job titles, reinforcing the gender pay gap decades later. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 legislated equal pay and equal conditions for men and women. The loophole allowed employers to continue discriminatory practices, and decades later, a gender wage gap still exists.

Rectifying the Gender Wage Gap

In previous bills, the wording was often too vague and unspecific so employers could find loopholes to get away with underpaying their female employees. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill works to narrow these possibilities by using more specific wording to apply to all public bodies. It also grants a minister the ability to get involved with these matters and enforce these rules. The bill also requires companies to report on the payment disparities between employees. Where companies could once get away with payment disparities through bonus packages, the bill eliminates this by holding companies accountable in their reports. Businesses refusing to take a course of action to rectify pay gaps can be held responsible to do so by the government.

The most recent statistic available on the pay gap in Ireland as of 2017 is 14.4%. The EU gender pay gap average was almost 15%, indicating that Ireland is doing better in this regard than other EU states. Further work is necessitated for Ireland to completely eliminate the disparity, but identifying where the problem originates is the first step toward this goal. The Gender Pay Gap Information Bill aims to help close the gap and achieve gender equality.

– Samantha Fazio
Photo: Flickr