The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has reiterated that inequality is an inevitable part of the society of incentives that Ireland has become.

Michael McDowell is quoted by The Economist magazine as offering a robust defence of the gap between rich and poor in Ireland.

His defence comes in the wake of a recent UN report suggesting that the Republic had become more unequal during its 'tiger years'.

As quoted by The Economist, Mr McDowell says that over the last 15 years absolute poverty has fallen sharply in Ireland.

Last April Minister McDowell attracted considerable criticism from the poverty and disability lobbies when he made similar comments in an interview with the Irish Catholic newspaper.