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Coughlan remarks on Back to Education allowance outrageous

3 December, 2003

Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West and Spokesperson on Social and Community Affairs, Seán Crowe, has described today‚s comments by the Minister of State for Social Welfare, Mary Coughlan, as "completely outrageous". Defending the decision to extend the period by nine months before a person can qualify for the Back to Education Allowance, Ms Coughlan accused many Europeans of giving up work in their own countries and coming to Ireland for the 'craic' while claiming the allowance.

Deputy Crowe said: "Once again Mary Coughlan has managed to not only denigrate the very real problems faced by people reliant on social welfare as they try to get back to employment but has made a gross and unjustified generalisation against fellow Europeans.

"To defend your Governments cuts in the Back to Education scheme by blaming Germans, French, Spanish or other Europeans for coming over to Ireland for a bit of 'craic' and sponging off the state is completely outrageous and smacks of the type nonsense more commonly found on the Tory benches in Westminster.

"This Government has presided for six years over policies and strategies that have widened the gap between rich and poor. There is no excuse for this Governments €58million worth of savage cuts on social welfare and Ms Coughlans remarks clearly show that she is scrapping the bottom of the barrel to defend the indefensible.

"The Back to Education Allowance is widely recognised by those who work in the sector as an important bridge for those making the transfer from welfare dependency to employment.

"If there are people abusing the system then the Minister needs to target those individuals instead of punishing everybody. However, we all know that the reality is that this Government is intent on introducing a series of savage cuts in social welfare and is now using increasingly desperate and wild allegations to explain away their attacks on the least well off in society." ENDS

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