Deputies

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Deepening poverty, unemployment

John Halligan (ind, Waterford) (Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th January 2013, 8, 9) asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, to agree to a task force to make an impact study of the serious health problems associated with unemployment and involve the Society of St Vincent dePaul, Social Justice Ireland, MABS, the Mental Health Commission and Aware.   Ireland’s unemployment rate, he said, was the fourth highest in the European Union and it was not just an economic problem but one that damaged people’s mental and physical health.  Several reports had come out recently from the Irish Mental Health Commission, the EU and the World Health Organization.  Mental health, especially among young men, was deteriorating, with suicide levels increasing at an alarming rate.

 

In response, the minister, Brendan Howlin, described the initiatives taken by the government to promote economic recovery and cited figures for new jobs and exports. These strategies were working, he said, but had a long way to go.  John Halligan told the Dail that he was out of touch with reality.  Over Christmas, many thousands of people had no television, heating or proper food.  He should take the opportunity to meet people working in front-line services, like the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Social Justice Ireland.   He should listen to what they had to say, which might shock him, rather than talk to them for five or six minutes.  He urged him to set up a task force because that could do a great service to those ill in the unemployment system.

 

The minister told him that he had met both organizations before the budget.  He was aware of the economic catastrophe that had befallen the country ‘but there was no point in decrying it. We must present solutions and hope to people and have set out our journey to recovery’, working to break away from dependency on the troika so that we can make our own economic decisions, he concluded.