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SVP ask public to support anti-austerity campaign

Your voice is essential...

The Hot Press Newsdesk, 12 Sep 2013



As Budget 2014 and a host of expected new cuts loom on the horizon, the Society of St Vincent de Paul are urging the public to make their voice heard in a bid to bring an end to austerity budgets.

The SVP estimates that one in six people in Ireland are at risk of poverty. Their new campaign aims to capture real life experiences of recessionary Ireland and present the harsh realities directly to the Government.

Speaking to Hot Press, SVP Head of Social Justice and Policy John Mark McCafferty stressed that the involvement of the public is of paramount importance.

"We want to garner public support in time for Budget 2014 so that we can say to the Ministers, ‘Look, this is the situation that people are facing’. Historically, we have been good at assisting people – reacting, responding. What we’ve not done so much of is listening. This campaign is about heeding, capturing and honouring those voices and putting that right back at politicians and decision makers and asking, ‘Do you want this to be your legacy?’."

To date, the SVP have brought this important issue to the attention of various Ministers. McCafferty is optimistic as to how the Government will react.

"The message has definitely been received," he says. "There’s an expectation by politicians that we will be very public in the months preceding the Budget. We will be telling the story of SVP assisting people in need as a result of cuts to their income or the withdrawal of services due to the austerity agenda. From that point of view, they hear us.

"Do they act on absolutely everything we say? Of course they don’t. They are looking to balance the books. We’re trying to influence them insofar as that balancing of the books is done in the most humane and socially just way and that it's also done over time. We need to move away from this fixation on slash and burn and more towards balance and investment and looking at alternative revenue streams."

The potential for this work being swept under the rug is not lost on McCafferty, but he's keen to point out that such an undertaking is a gradual process.

"Advocacy work isn’t an immediate task," he notes. "It’s not like building a wall or doing something practical inside a day or a couple of weeks. It’s a longer story... it takes a while to build up accurate pictures of what happens on the ground and to verify those stories and to authenticate them and convey them in the most appropriate way. That requires good planning and communication and coordination.

"It requires patience as a practitioner, as an activist, as an analyst. Over time, I think we do help to protect certain incomes or services from being cut. We also help new initiatives and services to come on stream. It’s very difficult to say that this one task or campaign stopped a bad thing from happening or started a good thing. You need patience and you also need to see the bigger picture."

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