Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Employment Affairs and Social Protection Willie O’Dea TD has said that he is concerned about the significant rise in the use of sanctions by Fine Gael and Labour Ministers over the past seven years, and underlines a new dog-whistle style of politics in Ireland.
Deputy O’Dea was commenting after receiving a parliamentary reply from Minister Regina Doherty which showed a 4482% increase, from 359 to 16,451, between 2011 and 2017.
“Whilst I and my Party are not opposed to sanctions, and we acknowledge that there has to be sanctions in some instances, this almost exponential rise in the use of sanctions in just seven years is very worrying and symptomatic of what Fine Gael in government really means for people.
“This appears to me that there is a ‘get-them’ mentality at the heart of this and the former government. I don’t buy the Department’s argument that it’s linked to greater levels of engagement with those in receipt of support.
“What I’m getting is that insufficient consideration being given to individual’s or a family’s circumstances, and that they may be forced into unsuitable employment options as a direct consequence of being threatened with sanctions.
“The growing use of sanctions, at a time of falling unemployment, is quite disturbing. How have we seen a 51% increase in sanctions in one year from 2016 to 2017? That doesn’t make sense to me. It is therefore essential that these figures are further interrogated and the reasons behind sanctions being applied are better understood.
“Minister Doherty should undertake a review of the use of sanctions and ensure that first and foremost that they are not premised on the principle of coercion.
“Less than 12 months ago, the current government rolled out its derogatory ‘welfare cheats cheat us all campaign’. The use of sanctions cannot be used as a means to stigmatise or belittle those in receipt of social welfare,” concluded O’Dea.