CELTIC TIGER TRAILS BEHIND IN CLUB OF RICH NATIONS.
We have the second highest level of poverty in the industrial world outside the USA.
For the second year in a row, Ireland is ranked 16 out of 17 western countries in the UN Human Development Report.
And the country comes 20th overall in a quality-of-life index of 174 nations surveyed.
The report says that, despite the country's economic success, 15.3 per cent of the population is living in "human poverty".
Illiteracy levels are also rocketing in a country which has an extraordinary budget surplus of pounds 4.5million.
A staggering 23 per cent - one in four - of the population can't read a bill or follow the instructions on a medicine bottle.
Last night, Fine Gael social affairs spokesman Jim O'Keefe TD called on the government to "examine its conscience" in the light of the report.
The shock report gives a staggering interpretation of Ireland's much hyped economic prowess.
And for the first time in years, the country has fallen in its social progress ranking.
The country also has one of the highest rates - 7.1 per cent - of long-term unemployment.
Last night the government tried to put a brave face on the embarrassing report.
Social Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said: "It is very welcome to see Ireland is in the top 20 countries in the world in terms of human development.
"But the data on human poverty provide an essential counterpoint to the many reports on economic boom.
"We all must play our part to avoid a two-tier society."
However, last night Fine Gael went on the offensive and slammed the government's record on tackling poverty.
"The UN report further highlights there are massive inequalities in wealth distribution," said the party's social affairs spokesman.
"A new approach is necessary.
"We must be prepared to spend more of the fruits of our economic good fortune on the less well off in our society," added Mr O'Keefe.
TOP 20 QUALITY OF LIFE INDEX
3. United States
18. New Zealand
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jul 13, 1999|
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