How is This Progress?



From top: The Social progress Indicator 2016, Anne Marie McNally

According to the 2016 Social Progress Indicator Ireland is among the top 20 best countries in the world in which to live.

So why aren’t we feeling it?

Anne Marie McNally writes:

Ireland is the 12th best country in the world in which to live.So we were told yesterday. The annual Social Progress indicator – conducted, ironically, in conjunction with one of the largest global finance companies, Deloitte, has placed us 12th based on a number of factors including health, education, equality and opportunity.

If you’ve been following the recent press regarding the difficulties faced by single parents trying to get into education; or the patients languishing on waiting lists or trolleys you might be surprised to see that health and education were two of the factors which raised our ranking to its slot just outside the top 10.

While the social justice campaigner in me wants to point out the hypocrisy of such a high ranking in both those areas I feel it’s only fair to look at things objectively and agree that in the grand scheme of things we have, in theory at least, the foundations for decent public health and education systems.

The premise of a universally accessible publicly funded health care system is there – it has not been realised and it has only recently become centre stage when the majority of the Dáil agreed to Róisín Shortall’s request to set up a specific health committee tasked with establishing a system that actually works on those principles.

And not just one that says it does while effectively forcing citizens to engage in a two-tier system for fear of not receiving treatment when and if needed.

Our education system is similar. On the face of it we have a fantastic education system that can be available to all with hard-work and studious dedication.

Yet time and time again the league tables and attrition rates to third level show us that hard work and dedication is not always enough because by and large the same areas go forth and prosper in that system while lower income areas whither on the bottom of third level admission rankings.

Don’t try and tell me that children from these areas don’t begin their schooling with the same drive and capability for hard-work and dedication as those from more affluent areas yet somewhere along the way a chasm opens up and far too many fall through the cracks.

The system itself may be based on laudable principles but the lived reality of it is very different for far too many.

Equality of opportunity is one thing; equality of outcome is an entirely different thing.

We fared exceptionally well for equality no doubt aided by our fantastic Yes vote in the Marriage Referendum yet at the same time we rank poorly when it comes to personal freedoms and personal rights and choices – I’d hazard a guess that our continuing denial of bodily autonomy to half the population may have something to do with that. Go figure.

The indicators used to measure basic human needs and wellbeing included things such as availability of affordable housing; broadband availability; and quality of the water infrastructure. No need for me to tell you how we fared in those regards -nsuffice to say not good!

Now I’m sure there’ll be those who shout ‘aha – there’s the proof that we shouldn’t be protesting water charges and should just get on with paying our bills so that our infrastructure may be repaired’.

To that I say ‘observe the extreme wastage of public funds that have been squandered on PR operations, golden handshakes, bloated salaries, quango-esque bonus payments and the general ‘two-finger to Joe citizen’ behaviour that has come to epitomise Irish Water and ask yourself where the investment in our infrastructure has been despite the spending of billions on the entity thus far (and that’s not hyperbole – in excess of €1 billion has been spent)’.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Deloitte itself (one of the partners involved in the compilation of this ranking) has earned itself a tidy little sum in ‘consultancy fees’ from the Irish Water enterprise!

The simple fact remains that all these indicators and ranking tables can judge things based on the paper version of our systems or we, as citizens living with them daily, can judge the systems based on our lived realities and the society we have in front of us today.

On that basis I would guess that the majority of us would agree – even if on varying levels- that while yes, some things are good and most things are better than many other countries, we can and we should do better.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

56 thoughts on “How is This Progress?

  1. Ronan

    Waiting lists and trolleys are not acute health issues. They are comfort issues. Irish people enjoy perfectly good emergency and acute care.

    Education while no longer free is damned site cheaper than in most OECD countries, and we have access programmes for mature students and those without means which can remove the remaining financial barriers.

    We’re not perfect, and it’s fun to run us down and say we’re third world but we’re not.

    1. Ronan

      As for lower income groups, I grew up in a council estate but I grew up in a house where a strong focus was put on education, homework checked, ripped up, and checked again, and an expectation of going to college was created. Not so for my neighbours, many of whom were told to get full time jobs and start handing up, with a general assumption that college is a waste of time you could be working, school of life etc etc

      EducTion begins with parents, and parents drive equality of outcomes, the state can only bring the horse to water

        1. Steve


          I grew up in a ropey Dublin estate and still managed to get into trinners for winners. All about the parents.

          Just waiting on dav et al to come in with the buzzkill….”yeah but the blue shirts”.

          Anyway these party political posts…sure it’s not as if SDs are gonna crawl out of the 3% polling if they came out with ” ye know what- things aren’t that bad here”. Need to point at stuff, which is fair enough like.

          1. Ned Flanders

            It’s “blu” shirts. For some reason the “e” is elided every time. Don’t forget “gravy” also. Those bores usually log in around lunchtime.

          2. newsjustin

            e is the letter of the elite Ned.

            Hence dav and blu.

            But you knew that nEd… your ivory tower.

  2. Owen C

    “The annual Social Progress indicator – conducted, ironically, in conjunction with one of the largest global finance companies, Deloitte, has placed us 12th based on a number of factors including health, education, equality and opportunity.”

    Why is that ironic? Oh to be so unaccountably and irrelevantly cynical…

  3. Baffled

    As a general observation about the far-left (given that the Social Democrats’ policy platform calls for “equality of outcomes” I think this characterisation is fair) it is interesting how GDP-derived rankings are readily deployed when they fit an argument but when they don’t suit the argument this is ‘explained’ away with “of course, Irish GDP is meaningless given the distortions caused by the MNCs”.

    1. nellyb

      If SD are far left, then DRMs are a solid centre.
      Anne Marie, do you keep Lessons of October under your pillow?

  4. Jake38

    “According to the 2016 Social Progress Indicator Ireland is among the top 20 best countries in the world in which to live. So why aren’t we feeling it?”

    Maybe a few months in Libya, Syria, North Korea, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Afghanistan (any stan in fact), Moldova, anywhere in Africa, or, say, Guatemala would help Ann Marie feel it. As they say, it’s all relative.

  5. newsjustin

    “…Ireland is among the top 20 best countries in the world in which to live.

    So why aren’t we feeling it?”

    I’m feeling it. I feel it every day when I reflect on:

    -the fact that my parents left school in their mid-teens and my siblings and I all have university degrees and postgraduate degrees that we got for free or at a very reasonable cost.
    -the fact that I can move, live and work anywhere in Ireland or the EU (or further afield)
    – the fact that my (minor) operation last year was done to a very high standard, for free and with only a reasonable wait.
    – the fact that my children, from pre-school up, get excellent schooling for free
    -the fact that I can start a small business in a week without bribing a single person
    -the fact that I have libraries, cinemas, theatres, concert venues and amply stocked shops on my doorstep
    -the fact that, if I become unemployed, I will not starve or loose my home
    -the fact that my elderly parents have a reasonable income from the state in their old age, as well as free travel
    -the fact that we have quite a good natural environmentthat we are free to enjoy
    -the fact that I can practice any religion I fancy
    -the fact that (despite the hype) my government, local and national institutions are not corrupt

    I could go on.

    In short, the author needs to step back, take a deep breath and realise we have it very good in Ireland (and the tragedy is that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world, who deserve the same freedoms as us, do not)

    1. Harry Molloy

      Thanks Justin for the glass half full outlook. It’s not a bad aul place really. Room to improve of course but sure at least it keeps us busy.

      1. Ned Flanders

        Hey Justin, you forgot the best bit – If you’re raped and get pregnant, you have to carry the rapist’s baby to full term. Unless you want to Ryanair it to the UK. COYBIG!

        1. newsjustin

          Also, an unborn foetus has a right to exist no matter who it’s father is. A number of ways of looking at that.

          But taken as a whole, Ireland is a very, very good place to live. You surely don’t doubt that?

          1. Ned Flanders

            Fair enough Justin. I’ll tell the lads to wrap up the Repeal campaign now. Those rape victims and FFA sufferers will just have to make do.

            It’s an alright country, riven by tribalism.

            As soon as indoctrinated goons such as yourself die off or become irrelevant we might progress closer to an enlightened society.

            Crosses still in hospitals, crosses still in schools. CEIST (Rónán Múllén et al) ensuring a death grip on children’s minds for the foreseeable. No political will to tackle it thanks to god-botherers such as yourself.

          2. Owen C

            Its weird that abortion somehow equals “enlightenment”. I’m pro choice, and think repeal of the 8th is a good idea, but i have come to this conclusion ‘on balance’ and accepting of arguments on both sides. Abortion is a terrible outcome for any pregnancy, its just possibly a better one than being forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to full term. It is in absolutely no way, shape or form accurate to describe as a pro abortion viewpoint as “enlightened”. At best its realistic, practical and humane.

          3. newsjustin

            Cheer up Ned.

            I might be dead soon and then you won’t have to think about one more person who doesn’t think exactly like you.

          4. Tony

            Ned, did you ever wonder how a country with all those crosses manages to be one of the best and friendliest countries in the world? The evidence would suggest they did us no harm.

          5. Ned Flanders

            Tony, news – oh it’s a friendly country alright. No sectarian violence or child abuse scandals in the last 50 years.

            News – you seem to be guilty of what you accuse. You’re a straight white male, with a job and a mortgage. Your partner has never had to carry a FFA or rapist foetus to term. Your ideology is that of those in power. They think like you. Everything is going well for you, so it’s only logical to assume it’s going well for everyone else.

            Thinking such as this has made this country what it is today.

          6. newsjustin

            What do historic sectarian violence (low grade civil war) and historic child abuse scandals, as terrible as they are, have to do with Ireland’s current “Social Progress” levels?

            You’re angry at the Ireland of the past and angry that we don’t allow abortion to your liking. That does not make a strong case for running the Ireland of 2016 down.

            As it happens I’m in temporary employment and can’t get (or afford) a mortgage. But, heh, I’m optimistic for the future.

    2. Maria

      agree with all you say except the last fact the our Government, local and national institutions are NOT corrupt. I beg to differ. Look at Lowry, Kelly etc. Look at Quango;s especially Irish Water where even the consultant i.e. The Ice Witch got a job, Redacted anyone???

      1. newsjustin

        Sorry. I should have qualified that. They are largely not corrupt. Was reading about Argentina recently….sheeesh.

        You’re right, of course, not country is free of corruption.

        1. Ned Flanders

          Hey Justin,

          You forgot another plus of living in Ireland – if your baby has a fatal foetal abnormality, you must carry it to term, regardless of the trauma it inflicts on you and your partner. Jesus said so!

          1. newsjustin

            I don’t see it as a national character flaw that a living human be protected from deliberate ending of their life.

            I get that you do. Fair enough.

        2. Maria

          Yep! But we should not tolerate corruption. In Ireland we can inclined to think that there is nothing we can do about it. There is! Other than that I love being Irish!

      2. DubLoony

        Lowry was found to be corrupt as a result of a Tribunal & was still elected – what does that say about voters attitudes?
        Kelly – can you elaborate on what or who you are talking about?

    3. Deluded

      I would suggest, newsjustin, that Anne-Marie is not referring to people like us, but to those in communities that have settled into a rut of multi-generational welfare dependence.
      I have a clear memory of my teacher in third class telling us to do our homework or we would end up sweeping the streets. It rankled because some of my classmates’ fathers worked on her husband’s farm. Why can we not respect those who labour so we can sit here and type? I understand the failures of communism and the obviation of enterprise but what alternative do we offer? Since the advent of the Luddites we have ignored the paradox of increased automation yet increased working hours. I work longer hours than my parents and my partner works too yet a stable homeplace in a safe neighbourhood with a dependable pension are only available to us because we are in the upper median. Coupled with that is the rejection of hard-won societal norms, decency and self-respect that are associated with pretension and snobbery. (I am not immune to feelings of superiority but I temper my utterance in the real world).
      The fact is, hard work and silent subservience guarantees nothing and many cannot abide that health and luck have favoured us; while you and I enjoy winning because we are winners we have nothing to offer those who lose but a feeling of inferiority, abuse for not submitting to the rigged system or unequal prosecution for subverting the law. This is not philosophising but a practical observation.
      I would suggest that Donald Trump and people like him are an answer we do not want.

  6. Water Boy

    Water quality the biggest drain on raking where Ireland ranked poorly in Water and Sanitation and extremely poorly in Environment with water treatment being slated.

    It is ironic that a politician whose biggest claim to fame is as a water protest type has the audacity to play the misery junkie card in that context, if you invest things get better if you give unlimited quantities away free then you get poor environment and have strong scores in education and health dragged down.

  7. Tony

    We are lucky to live in this country at this time. Unfortunately for all the SJW’s out there who chose only to see the bad in order to give themselves some form of footing and scrape some meaning from life. I am profoundly grateful for the last couple of generations, who despite great economic, cultural and social challenges, managed to build one of the best countries in Europe on so many levels. All while remaining one of the friendliest too. If the younger generation want to improve it, they might see the sacrifice our parents made and actually do something, instead of sitting on their expanding butts and shouting at the ills of the world. It takes work to build a good society, and even harder work to build a great one.

    1. Nigel

      So Ireland is awesome except for the current generation who suck and are fat and lazy and shouty and complainy and only see bad things. Hmm. Thanks for the positive outlook!

    2. DubLoony

      Actually, some of our older generations royally screwed over the younger one in order to preserve their gains.
      Older people are disproportionately catered for in politics & society.

      There is a serious inter generational problem in this country.

    3. Tony

      Ireland is awesome. And yes this infantile obese generation need a kick up the butt if they are going to make it better. Enablers like you will always try and convince people they are victims so you can charge in and stand up for them, but in fact you are depriving them of learning reliance for themselves. So if you want to be good Nige, butt out.

      1. Nigel

        Yeah stop making infantile whiny complaints ya big fat babies! Emulate the previous generation and make things better by letting corrupt institutions flourish until they collapse under the weight of the their own smug complacency! Leave the country a little closer to being a moral, economic and environmental wasteland! That’s how you teach the next generation self-reliance!

        1. Tony

          It must kill you that we are the 12th best country in the world. It must kill you that others like us and find us friendly. What you call a “moral, economic and environmental wasteland” is in fact a great country for those who want to enjoy it and make it better. I wonder why you want refugees to come, why you want Ibrahim to come. I wonder why you stay, because its not to improve it, its just to criticise, mock and be cynical about. How does your constant whinging change anything? How does promoting hate of Ireland advance anyones cause?

          1. Nigel

            I love how you disparage and deride an entire generation of Irish people but I’m the one who hates Ireland.

  8. Cian

    And none of the worst areas are mentioned:
    – 108th (of 160 countries) for Obesity
    – 69th for our Suicide rate (although I don’t know if all countries report these accurately)
    – 60th for Primary school enrolment? (although this says that only 95% of “of the number of children of the official primary school age who are enrolled in primary school to the total population of official primary school age children.” which seems wrong to me)
    – 40th for Religious tolerance

    Perhaps next week you can talk about these.

  9. DubLoony

    If you don’t like the Deloitte data, why not take a look at the OECD rankings

    They compare countries across a range of measures like health, education, housing, community etc.
    Some things we’re pretty good at, some obviously not so good. Overall, we’re pretty good.

    There are obvious areas to improve. Try concentrate on those rather than making stuff up.

  10. NedleyKing

    If you don’t feel the value and benefit of living in Ireland, I suggest you try live somewhere else for a while (maybe try outside the EU and North America for greatest effect). It doesn’t take long before you realize how good you have it. The irony is that those who complain the most are the least likely to ever see what life is really like on the other side of the fence

  11. Kieran NYC

    “So why aren’t we feeling it?”

    Because the prevailing national mood is one of pessimism and negativity. Disguised by “Shur aren’t we great having the banter and the craic” bravado.

    Everything is complained about. Constantly. Liveline, FFS. Any positive news at all is couched with “probably won’t last” or “must be wrong” if not ignored entirely. Dare to suggest the country isn’t 100% poo and you’ll be shouted down as being “above your station”. Bitterness and begrudgery.

    Americans go too far the other way, but going home is like having a concrete block placed on your back as soon as you walk out the airport, you can sense the negativity.

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