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SF demand over employment report

An employment report by a state-funded think-tank could be used in a cynical way to drive down social welfare rates in the next budget, it has been claimed.

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald raised concerns over the working paper by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which claimed 44% of working families would be better off financially on the dole.

The controversial document was withdrawn by the ESRI, which said the underlying analysis needs major revision.

ESRI director Frances Ruane and social protection minister Joan Burton both insisted there was no political pressure on the body to withdraw the report.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also said he would not stand over political involvement.

"This is an independent organisation. I could not stand over, and I would not stand over, any contact from Government to an independent organisation to say you must withdraw or take down any particular documentation," he said.

"This is the important element of what it is what we have as a society, how we follow Government decisions and make Government decisions to create employment and opportunities for our people."

Ms McDonald called on the Taoiseach to reassure struggling families that the report - which she said was a shoddy and misleading piece of work based on outdated figures - would not be used against them in the upcoming budget.

Co-author Professor Richard Tol, who no longer works at the ESRI, said he stands over his findings.

"There are of course serious issues with the data, because unfortunately in Ireland there's no real data set that really goes to the heart of this, so we had to combine two sets of data that were collected for different purposes. But as far as I know, we've done that correctly," he told RTE.

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