The Wheel Wants To Hear Your Voice...(do you have an opinion on the role of the Community and Voluntary Sector?)

A debate has recently erupted on the pages of the Irish Times about the role that the community and voluntary sector plays in Irish society. We encourage you all to have a read of the two very different articles, and then to pitch in in our comments section below with your own opinions and responses.

The first article, Charity No Substitute for Action on Inequality, written by Professor Kathleen Lynch ofthe UCD School of Social Justice, takes a highly critical stance on the role that charity plays in Irish society.

The wide-ranging article suggests that charity demeans those in receipt of it; that it is driven not by solidarity, but rather by a “desire for moral recognition”; and that charity is an inherently inadequate response to inequality and injustice (the appropriate response to which, the author suggests, should come via the State). Please read the article in full here.

The second article, Role of Charity Complements that of the State, was published in direct response to Prof Lynch.

Written by Owen Keenan, director of Middlequarter and former chief executive of Barnardos, this article takes issue with many of Prof Keenan’s assertions, including the notion that charities are legally prevented from making robust challenges to structural inequality.

Keenan also makes the case for the social validity and necessity of charities by pointing out that, even if the progressive taxation system preferred by Prof Lynch were enacted (thereby reducing the need for at least some charitable work, as Keenan admits), there would inevitably be a continuing need even then for many charities to continue to address issues and causes that the State is ill-equipped to deal with. Read the article in full here.

What Do You Think?

Where do you come down on the issues explored and debated in the above two articles? Do you think that an increased reliance on charity is a sign and symptom of an increasingly unequal society; or, is charity a necessary glue, binding our civil society together; or perhaps is it something in between?

Let us know by getting stuck into the comments section below.

Alex McMahon,
Membership Officer, The Wheel || (01) 454 8727

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