The recent multitude of events commemorating the centenary of the 1916 rising has provided ample opportunity to reconsider and admire the original wording of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
“The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally…”.
Despite the power of such rhetoric, this vision for the Irish Republic has never been achieved. Opportunities to implement it have been squandered and political promises of radical reform have not been delivered. The muddled and uninspiring outcome of the 2016 general election lends supports to the view that our politics and our political choices are driven by short-term considerations and that we lack an overarching vision of the type of society we should be working to create.
The abhorrent living conditions of the tenements of 1916 underpinned a serious housing crisis at that time. While thankfully, 100 years on, such living conditions are no longer accepted, escalating rents and the level of homelessness today means we have a housing crisis in 2016. We remain a relatively unequal society in which many groups face discrimination and exclusion. Our economy, betrayed in recent times by an unsavoury coalition of politicians, bankers, developers and regulators, serves neither our society nor our environment.
The vision of the 1916 Proclamation remains valid. It inspired Claiming Our Future to examine how civil society could respond to the celebration of the 1916 anniversary. Rather than focusing on failings in the implementation of the Proclamation’s vision, Claiming Our Future developed a new blueprint for a vision. Our Declaration for a Future Ireland sought to look forward rather than backward.
We posted an invitation to participate on a dedicated website and met organisations around the country. This allowed for drafting and submitting of personal versions of the Declaration. We offered to facilitate groups and individuals adumbrating their hopes for the future as “Future News” in a two-minute newsshow format. The groups that took part ranged from Young Friends of the Earth to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and the Longford Women’s Group.
The final Declaration for a Future Ireland embraces a fundamental transformation of our current society to become a flourishing Ireland based on the core progressive values of equality, environmental sustainability, participation, accountability and solidarity. It proposes 21 wide ranging Guarantees. These have been grouped to resonate with the key demands that emerged from the process: Equality, Rights and Justice; A Participatory, Accountable and Inclusive Democracy; An Environmentally Sustainable and Vibrant Economy; and A High Quality of Life based on Solidarity.
Like the Proclamation, the Declaration for a Future Ireland aspires to be a visionary document. On closer inspection, the guarantees it pledges are not that radical. Each one is underpinned by a value that will echo with most people’s own fundamental beliefs. It is this values-based society that we ask people to critically reflect upon and declare for themselves.
Claiming Our Future is now embarking on a process to engage with civil society organisations on how best to implement this Declaration. How could this values-based framework be used in their own advocacy work in seeking social change? We want to engage with any new Government on taking up the ideas in the Declaration. What values underpin their future policy proposals and how could they espouse the guarantees made?
Claiming Our Future asks that you join with us to now, raise our heads, reclaim our voices, our rights and our dignity and pledge support to this, our Future Ireland.
Equality, Rights and Justice Guarantees:
- Fulfilment of fundamental and inalienable social, economic, cultural, civil, political and environmental rights.
- Equality between women and men.
- Protection from sexual violence and exploitation and caring support to allow for control of fertility and family planning.
- Equality for all people and diverse groups in our society respectful of diversity of age, disability, gender, religion, ethnic identity including membership of the Traveller community, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, or socio-economic status.
- Protection from institutional abuses, isolation, segregation, discrimination and violence together with equal treatment before the law.
- Equitable distribution of income so as to ensure a guaranteed adequate minimum income for all, whether in paid employment or not, which is sufficient to live life in comfort and with dignity, achieving a socially acceptable ratio between maximum and minimum incomes.
Participatory, Accountability and Inclusive Democracy Guarantees:
- Pluralist, participatory, diverse, gender-balanced and accountable democracy, with strong local government and inclusive systems of decision-making, which listens to all voices and reflects collective opinion, celebrating diversity of opinion and dissent.
- Public participation in policy-making, including for those experiencing poverty, inequality, and social exclusion; and a constructive say in decisions.
- Vibrant civil society with effective community and environmental organizations, trade unions, community-culture groups and cooperative enterprises which, through collective effort, build strong communities which are flourishing places of caring, sharing and well-being.
- Safe and legal avenues to enter Ireland for those from outside Europe who are in need of our protection and an assurance of welcome, integration and empowerment for migrants and refugees.
- Opportunities to express creativity and participate in and celebrate our social and cultural heritage as well as the traditions of other cultures in our society.
Sustainable Environment and Vibrant Economy Guarantees:
- Environment that is protected, renewed, and made available for future generations; is freed from the use of fossil fuel; promotes recycling; and values and protects its biodiversity.
- Vibrant economy that serves the needs of society, provides sustainable jobs and respects environmental limits: an economy that promotes the development of cooperative enterprises and that organises the production, distribution and consumption of goods and resources in an egalitarian and environmentally sustainable way.
- Banking and financial system that is strongly regulated and prohibits excessive speculation and rewards.
- Progressive, just and equitable taxation system that balances taxes on labour, wealth, corporate profits, financial transactions and resources, that fosters equality and that enables long-term sustained investment in our public infrastructure and services.
- Decent, properly rewarded, accessible and non-exploitative work, job security, workers’ rights, equal pay for men and women and a good work-life balance.
High Quality of Life based on Solidarity Guarantees:
- Effective, efficient, transparent and adequately funded public services available to all irrespective of income and, in particular, effective, efficient and universally accessible public health services, social services, education, early childhood care and education, and transport services.
- Secular education system that empowers young people to develop as active citizens, giving them practical experience of civic life, informing them of the rights they enjoy and should respect, and supporting them to participate in shaping their future.
- Affordable, high quality, warm and energy-efficient homes, both public and private, available to all as a right.
- Well-being of all children who will be cherished and loved equally and will have access to shelter, food, education and other services necessary for their happiness and development; no child will grow up in an institutional environment and no child will be subjected to sexual exploitation.
- Recognition of and support for the contribution of care-work and voluntary activity to society.