A COUNTY councillor has hit out at households which, he says, are getting in excess of €1,000 in their door each week “having never done an hour’s work in their life” while other families can’t afford a tin of beans to moisten their children’s mash.
Cllr Kevin Sheahan claims there is “no justice” in the manner in which social welfare is distributed and says he is simply articulating what is being said by his electorate.
“I am bringing the message from the people I am listening to. They are the ordinary people who have lost their jobs, have a mortgage, are rearing a family, doing their best and they are finding it almost impossible to survive,” said the Fianna Fail councillor following a discussion at County Hall this week on the decision by the Department of Social Protection to withdraw community welfare officers from 14 centres across the county.
The Askeaton-based councillor said he doesn’t believe that there is a “full appreciation of how bad it is out there”.
“Some families,” he said, “are unable to pour a tin of beans on mashed potatoes to moisten the spuds for their children.”
“I went into a house and that actually happened and I couldn’t flippin’ believe it. The children were being told to do homework in the day-light because they couldn’t afford to burn electricity. The fear of their lives was the annual ESB bill because they were paying their mortgage. Their priority was to keep a roof over their heads,” he added.
The burden of heavy taxation, he said, is having a crippling effect on many households while others are getting in excess of €1,000 in the door “having never done an hour’s work in their life”. “These are people who never made a contribution, who are physically and mentally capable of working and I know there is in excess of €1,000 a week going in the door and that does not include children’s allowance. There is no justice in that when there are other families hungry,” continued Cllr Sheahan who noted that people with disabilities were excluded from his comments.
While he said he does not think that the dole should be reduced “there should be a more fair system whereby no matter how bad it is, all people would be treated equally”. He said there are people who were self-employed in the good days who were “treated like ragdolls” by the social welfare system when their business went to the wall. “They can’t get money and they paid their taxes,” he said.
Cllr Sheahan noted that during the boom-time, Ireland had people “swarming” the country from all over the world seeking work “and we had these other people in our communities who spoke the language and were physically capable of working and they didn’t take jobs”.
“I would rather lose my seat doing something that is right than to lose my seat for doing something that is wrong,” he added.
Padraig Malone, co-ordinator of the Limerick Resource Centre for the Unemployed said the vast majority on social welfare “don’t want to be” and are using it “in good faith” having fallen on hard times. “The key thing is that there are 440,000 unemployed at the moment. Five years ago there was 137,000. So 300,000 people haven’t decided that they all want to live off social welfare,” he said.
“In every system there are abuses but people highlight the abuses often to have a go at the system as a whole. There are people in our society who think we should be back in the Victorian times when you almost have to be starving to death to get anything.”