The Conference of Religious in Ireland has commented on official figures from Brussels showing that the Irish Government spends just over half the EU average on social protection. 

In its annual socio-economic review, CORI challenges the Government to show how it can aspire to provide European levels of infrastructure and social provision while it continues to collect less tax per head than any country in the EU.

According to Brussels, social protection includes spending on health, disability, old age, widows and widowers, families and children, unemployment, and housing.

In 2000 the 15 member states spent on average 27.3% of Gross Domestic Product on these vulnerable groups. The Republic of Ireland spent just 14.1%, trailing far behind the second lowest, Spain, which spent just over 20%. 

Fr Sean Healy of CORI's Justice Commission said nothing has happened since 2000 to suggest we may be catching up with our European partners.

He said we will never bridge the social and economic infrastructure gaps unless we gather a larger share of national income to build a fairer and more successful country.

Fr Healy called on the Government to begin by honouring its promise to raise lowest social welfare rates to 30% of the gross average industrial wage by 2007.