Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

TD: Jobless face AA-style meetings

Joe Higgins said the Government should be looking after victims of the economic crisis instead of rewarding the perpetrators

The Government has been accused of treating unemployed people like they are in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins described the new Pathway to Work scheme as a classic Tory ploy, saying it victimised those suffering most in the economic crisis. He said: "The unemployed are being called to Alcoholics' Anonymous-style motivational meetings."

The scheme, which has not yet been published, will require the jobless to attend one-on-one meetings in which they are set a date when they are expected to be off the Live Register. Those who are still unemployed by their goal date will then be invited to what the Government has described as a challenging interview.

"Your Government has kept 100,000 people on the dole. Is it the case they are to be regarded as having a serious dependency disease of which they are to be cured?" Mr Higgins said.

"Is this how far the Irish Labour Party has fallen? Less than one year before the election, you wished to be the champion of the jobless."

Mr Higgins said the Government should be looking after the victims of the crisis instead of rewarding the perpetrators, including, he said, the unsecured bondholders of the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank who were paid 1.25 billion euro this week.

He suggested the Government invest money it has promised to the bondholders into job creation to prevent the Irish public from fighting over low-paid work that no one wants to do.

"That is the pitiless strategy of capitalism," he went on. "Can you explain why the Irish Labour Party, founded by the great champions of the victims, are going to participate in the classic Tory ploy?"

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said Mr Higgins was exaggerating and that the Pathway to Work scheme was a genuine effort to get the 440,000 people off the Live Register.

"For people who are out of work, the approach of the Government is to assist those people with training, education, job experience, with internships," said Mr Gilmore. "This is in order that they can work themselves back into employment where there are jobs available."

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