Troika's notion some might do better on dole 'uninformed claptrap'


Joint Committee:The troika’s contention that some Irish people might be better off on the dole has been dismissed as “uninformed claptrap” and “rubbish”.

Fr Séan Healy of Social Justice Ireland accused the troika of selectively using facts to bolster its arguments that Irish welfare rates should be cut.

He said it had used misleading data in documents about the number of Irish people in poverty, the level of welfare increases in the last decade and about replacement ratios or the relative attractiveness of low-paid work compared to living on the dole.

As a result it had produced “inaccurate analysis” and “inappropriate policy positions”, Fr Healy told the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection.

The committee is considering proposals for pre-budget audits to examine possible measures before they are announced in the budget.

Social Justice Ireland is one of the organisations that can make submissions to the troika. It said the troika had told it they did not mind the ratio involved in tax increases or spending cuts so long as they arrived at the proper figure.

However, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had “explicitly stated to us this is not true” and cuts had to be replaced with other cuts and tax increases with other tax increases, said Fr Healy. “One of them is being economical with the truth. It would be useful if we would know what the actual process is.”

He said Social Justice Ireland sent them a document pointing out errors in their analysis “and they have not disputed since”.

He accused the troika of selectively using data to suggest that there was a large increase in social welfare payments in recent years. Over a 25-year period the increases were much less than those enjoyed by working people.

Fr Healy also took issue with an idea which he said was being circulated in the media that there were 100,000 Irish people on the dole who did not want to work.

There were 28,000 people in long-term unemployment in 2007, and that figure was now at 192,000 as a result of the recession. It could not be said that Ireland had produced 164,000 more “layabouts and useless people” in the intervening years.

Fr Healy also told the committee that Social Justice Ireland was given six minutes with Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and told to present just two ideas to her. He said he supported the idea of a pre-budget audit because it would allow difficulties to be ironed out in advance of its publication.

Tasc (Think Tank for Action on Social Change) director Nat O’Connor told the committee that Ireland remained a low-tax economy. He said capital acquisitions taxes, taxes on higher pay and a new property tax with a deferred payment system on an ability to pay basis would not hurt the ability to create jobs.