FG aims to tackle 'scourge of emigration'


SOME 45,000 work experience and education places were proposed by Fine Gael yesterday in order to curb emigration.

The party wanted to tackle the “scourge of forced emigration” and provide opportunities at home for the tens of thousands of people expected to emigrate in the coming years, its education and skills spokesman Fergus O’Dowd said at a press conference yesterday.

“We have got to stop the boat going off with our kids in it. We have got to make sure that every possible thing we can do to keep them here is done by this government,” he added.

The party proposed 23,000 one-year internships for unemployed graduates to gain experience while studying for a master’s degree or diploma. The graduates would be paid entry-level rates in the public, private and voluntary sectors and would receive a €3,000 bursary to fund their studies.

Fine Gael would mandate State agencies IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to provide 5,000 work experience places through its clients.

The country was losing its “best talent”, Fine Gael communications spokesman Leo Varadkar said. The party was “not prepared to lose this talent without a fight”, he said.

A separate education scheme for 17,000 former retail and construction workers who did not finish school or college was also proposed. Recipients of these “second-chance education” places would receive €20 extra in unemployment benefit, €500 for books and a €3,000 completion bonus.

Some 5,000 additional places in community employment schemes for people on the Live Register were also proposed. Community placement would be reformed to be more “market-oriented” with more places in the private sector and the length of standard schemes cut to six months.

Some 700 unemployed craft apprentices would be given work placements with State and semi-State agencies while they completed their training.

Of the 93,000 unemployed people who took up job placements in 2010, 60 per cent went on to further training while 40 per cent of them “ended up nowhere”, Mr O’Dowd said.

An overhaul of the way training for unemployed people was provided was also among the party’s plans. It would include a scheme of training vouchers to allow people on social welfare to access training to suit their needs.

“We want to eliminate the practice of forcing unemployed people to attend redundant, unnecessary or unsuitable training courses for the sake of it,” Mr Varadkar said.

The party needed to do “everything we possibly can to provide jobs, training and placement opportunities here at home”.

Both Mr O’Dowd and Mr Varadkar yesterday spoke of the sadness emigration caused to families. “Imagine a thousand homes this week where the mother and father are saying goodbye to their child. That is just unacceptable,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Mr Varadkar said he had been struck while canvassing by “the number of people who have told me about their sons and daughters who have had to emigrate to find work”.

Mr Varadkar also admitted he was not a natural canvasser, “I am not someone who is really a natural canvasser. I probably should not be in politics at all; I am not really a people person,” he said.

Comments on emigration by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan on the BBC programme Hardtalklast year were played by Fine Gael at its press conference yesterday. Ms Coughlan had said that some emigration out of the country was “not a bad thing” while some emigrants travelled abroad to enjoy themselves.