Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Disability has said that she is deeply disappointed that the Oireachtas has engaged in unpaid internships for young people with disabilities.

Deputy Murphy O’Mahony was commenting as it emerged that the Oireachtas is currently employing interns with intellectual disabilities and not paying them a salary. Instead each intern receives a daily lunch voucher.

“This is totally unacceptable, and flies in the face of basic fair play and Government policy which is not to engage in unpaid internships.

“I wholeheartedly welcome the Owl Scheme which is proving these internship opportunities to service users of two charities, Walk and Care. However, they should be paid for their work. There can be no ifs, no buts and no maybes about it.

“The excuses being put forward by the Oireachtas as to why they have decided not to pay the interns a salary are weak at best, and underline the need for enhanced workers’ protections for people with disabilities.

“There is a Wage Subsidy Scheme, operated by the Department of Social Protection, which subsidises the payment of salaries to people with disabilities in employment. The Houses of the Oireachtas should consider utilising this scheme to ensure that all interns are paid.

“Since the interns started work in September, it has been great to see them becoming part of the Oireachtas community. The idea that they wouldn’t be paid for their work is simply unacceptable.

“The Fianna Fáil representatives on the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission will be raising this issue at the earliest opportunity. This cannot be allowed to continue,” concluded Murphy O’Mahony.