Open Letter to Róisín Shortall

Sent to the deputy this morning, concerning these comments in the Irish Times today:

His Labour counterpart Róisín Shortall said she generally welcomed the scheme as it gave an opportunity to extend social and community schemes – already well-established in rural areas – to cities and towns.

“I have some concerns about the use of this scheme to tackle fraud. This should be about helping those who are unemployed but who wish to work,” she said.

Deputy Shortall,

As a constituent, I’m writing to raise the issue of your support for the government’s introduction of compulsory, unpaid menial labour for the unemployed. I would rather have done so in person at your Monday clinic, but I note that, while you’re free to pontificate in The Irish Times about how the unemployed should be compelled to spend their days, you are not available to constituents at your clinic for the entire month of August. Forgive my cynicism, but I suspect that you are not performing obligatory unpaid labour to retain your salary.

This measure, with its obvious parallels to the community service work enforced upon those convicted by the courts, is another step in the establishment’s criminalisation of the poor. The Labour Party’s acceptance of neoliberalism and silent complicity with the government’s persecution of workers and the unemployed (simultaneous with the bailing out of the rich) is no secret. That you, however, a deputy representing an area with one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country, could so brazenly support such a vicious assault on the jobless and poor beggars belief.

The entire ideological thrust of this scheme is morally repugnant. It is not a matter of approving of it in principle but having reservations about certain specifics, at least not to anyone who gives a damn about the unemployed. If the “work” involved is useful and necessary, it should be offered on a full- or part-time basis with all relevant employment and union rights and benefits respected. If it is not useful, it is pointless, punitive, degrading and designed to pinch a few pennies from those who can be cut loose from the welfare system by being humiliated in this way. We both know that only the latter is applicable to this scheme.

In the Dáil last year, you strongly criticised the minister for the unpardonable withdrawal of the Christmas Bonus from welfare recipients. I have repeatedly asked representatives of the Labour Party since then to commit, as a matter of policy and of basic morality, to restoring the bonus in government. They have repeatedly and pointedly refused. I invite you to make this commitment, or to confirm, in its absence and taking your views on the matter above into consideration, that your sympathies lie with the government, the rich and the establishment, and not with the poor, the unemployed and the destitute.


8 Responses to “Open Letter to Róisín Shortall”

  1. Noel Rock Says:

    A fantastic letter. Disappointed with her thoughts on this.

  2. Brian Says:

    Personally the proposed extension of this scheme to help the unemployed who are discriminated against by the means test, will provide some of them with a chance to meet basic household expenses, especially for the under-employed self-employed who are in a desparate financial limbo. I welcome the scheme, and feel no regret that some folks may object to ‘having to work’ for their dole. There is dignity in work, no matter how menial. There is no dignity in the dole. Brian

    • DublinDilettante Says:

      There are hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in this country, I daresay they pretty much all have more dignity, not to mention more humanity, than reactionary tosspots who are always keen to see others suffer for their supper.

    • CMK Says:

      Eh, a sure sign that you’ve likely never done menial work for any length of time. There’s f**k all dignity in it. Sure, it’s fine as a stop gap, or when you’re a teenager or young adult looking for a few quid to go out drinking and what not. But as a long term proposition?

      There are hundreds of thousands of people here working at menial, low paid jobs, many of them migrants. While the people themselves are dignified and often heroic, the work itself is rarely ever. Working for the seemingly endless supply of degenerate small ‘business people’ that flourish in Ireland, such workers dignity is often quickly destroyed. And, note, even many well paid workers have their dignity destroyed by their employers as I’m currently witnessing with a relative.

      This kind of workfare sh**e will only compound the destruction of dignity, particularly after unemployment. Why aren’t the Labour Party calling for, for instance, a reduction of hours in the public sector with no loss of pay and the recruitment of ten of thousands to take up the slack? It would probably cost a fraction of any of the bailouts.

      Yet again, the Labour Party’s true identity is revealed. Anti-worker to the core, and desparate not to ‘frighten the horses’. Pathetic.

  3. Hugh Green Says:

    Dignity in work me hole. Is there dignity in being a concentration camp guard or a kapo?

  4. Mike Says:

    I have been looking at the web reaction to the ‘volunteer for your dole’ scheme over the last few hours. Much of it is depressing for its casual contempt for people who have lost their jobs. I feel this post is depressing too for a different reason. The sort of hysterical, extreme characterisation of O Cuiv’s proposal only brings closer the day on which the sort of scheme you (and I) abhor actually will be announced. This is ‘dog whistle politics’ and you have gone racing off into indignation and recrimination, which is just what they want.

    The actual Department release said they were going to increase the opportunities for people on the dole to volunteer. Thousands of unemployed people already do volunteer, and many more would do so if there was less red tape and more decent opportunities. Surely nothing wrong with that? Voluntary volunteering. Certainly not the answer to our crisis but not a bad thing, and certainly not a fair target for sneering at the ‘menial’ work they do.

    Then (through leak or otherwise) the Sunday papers start to ask ‘will people lose their dole’ if they don’t ‘volunteer’, O Cuiv, being a man of many ideas too many of them not well thought through, says yes. And then we have a frenzy, and bloggers and talk shows engaged in a passionate discussion of ‘should you work for your dole’. That is the discussion they want us to have, not the one about what can be done to create jobs and training opportunities, or why people who want to volunteer risk losing their dole if they do, or why they cut the dole and plan to do so again.
    It is perfectly reasonable for Labour and ICTU to welcome new opportunities to volunteer but oppose making volunteering compulsory. What do you want them to say? No volunteering? Look at the responses on and for more thoughtful responses from a broader definition of the left. Tasc also linked to these.

    This – is workfare a good or a bad thing argument is a waste of time. Of course it is bad thing, but when we are arguing on that issue, we are arguing in their terms.

    • DublinDilettante Says:

      Mike, I’m not normally rude to guests, but you’re talking through your hole. You know very well the kind of government we have, and why it introduces measures like this, and what sort of ideology and attitude towards the working class underpins those measures. Labour know this and so do ICTU. This is what’s known as flying a kite. The unlucky 10,000 get to be hoisted up on it.

      We’re having this discussion about workfare because that’s what’s lurking inside this particular Trojan horse. Anyone who can’t see that is either myopic or blinded by party affiliations.

  5. Mike Says:

    of course that should be I am sure the poor ant pays too but it is a less important issue.

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