Recession leading to increase in suicide rates, says Halligan
THE ECONOMIC recession is leading to increased suicide rates, Independent Waterford TD John Halligan told the Dáil.
He said the Irish Association of Suicidology had indicated, based on international research, that for every percentage point rise in unemployment, there was a 0.78 per cent rise in the suicide rate. “Let us be clear that as the economic situation worsens, human lives are at stake,” he said.
Mr Halligan said a report released this week by Social Justice Ireland confirmed what many TDs were aware of, particularly those representing constituencies with high unemployment. “The gap between Ireland’s rich and poor is spiralling out of control.”
The disposable income of Ireland’s poorest households fell by 18 per cent in a single year while the income of the richest rose by 4 per cent, he added.
It was estimated, he said, that 10 per cent of the population received almost 14 times more in disposable income than the poorest, who were experiencing the worst income distribution for more than 30 years. Some 200,000 children lived in poverty.
Mr Halligan added that Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton should relieve people’s misery, given the “speculation and comment in some of the right-wing press that social welfare rates should be cut by telling the 450,000 who rely on income on which they can barely survive that their payments will not be touched or cut in the next budget”.
Ms Burton said she could not make any commitment about what would or would not be included in the budget. She acknowledged and shared concerns that the vulnerable should be protected at this difficult time, particularly the elderly and people who had retired.
“However, for people of working age, the best way to get back to financial independence is for the Government to assist them to get a job,” she added.
Dublin South Central People Before Profit TD Joan Collins accused the Minister of not living in the real world.
“The Minister has cut back on the lone parent allowance and the household package for the elderly,” she said. “She is leaving people more vulnerable.”
Ms Burton said the important study published earlier this week by Social Justice Ireland included figures relating to the Fianna Fáil budgets in the 2009 to 2010 period.
She said the Government had protected basic social welfare rates and ensured some 330,000 people on low pay were taken out of the universal social charge net.