A maximum income, a reformed tax system, and a minimum income threshold were the three main policy priorities to emerge from the country's first "citizens forum" in Dublin's RDS yesterday.
The event was attended by 1,100 people – half the number who applied to take part – who also called for a stimulus package to maximise job creation in the social and green economy, and expressed overwhelming support for a radical new emphasis on economic security and social and environmental sustainability.
Former equality authority chief Niall Crowley, one of the key movers behind yesterday's event, told the Sunday Tribune that he was "blown away" by the "extraordinary" level of interest.
"The mood you get around the place is incredible," Crowley said. "Ten minutes before it starts, people are all sitting at their tables, anxious to get going. I've never seen anything like that before, and I think it reflects the hunger for people to articulate alternatives.
"This is about saying what we want – this is not about anger. It is absolutely vital to have this space, to articulate the type of Ireland that we want."
Participants were actively encouraged to use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the messages from yesterday's event.
Six core civil society groups, including ICTU, the Community Platform, Tasc and Social Justice Ireland, had based the idea for yesterday's meeting on a similar event in Iceland.
ICTU deputy general secretary Sally-Ann Kinahan welcomed the endorsement of policies to stimulate the economy and create jobs. "We have to tackle the deficit but policy must also take account of need for jobs and sustainable economic activity.
"Three austerity budgets have already taken €13bn out of the economy and the government is talking about more than doubling that. But the economy isn't reacting and many now believe the adjustment is too fast and too deep. It's time to prioritise tackling unemployment, particularly youth unemployment which now stands at 30%," she said.
Broken up into four sessions over the day, another striking feature of yesterday's meeting was the sight of well-known public faces such as Fergus Finlay, Mary Davis, David Begg and Fr Seán Healy discussing the day's themes at a table populated by strangers.
Pirooz Daneshmandi was one of those who attended in a personal capacity, although he has long been involved in various community initiatives in Dublin's north inner city.
"I heard about it on TV and wanted to be involved. It is important for people to feel they have choices and that it is not just 15 people sitting in a cabinet room who make all the decisions, particularly when it is these same people who made such a mess of things in the first place," he said. "So I'm hoping it will have a galvanising effect."
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