Problems faced over Derry /Donegal benefits access “Mind boggling” –Raymond McCartney MLA
Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney has raised concerns over eligibility problems around access to benefits that are being encountered by people who are originally from Derry but who now live in Donegal.
His comment follows problems where people from Derry now resident in Donegal are being told that they are not entitled to benefits as they do not satisfy Habitual Residence Conditions (HRC)
Raymond McCartney said
“I have been contacted by numerous people who are originally from Derry but who now live in Donegal and who have encountered these problems
Due to the recession many people are losing their jobs and when they go to their local benefits office they are being told that they are not entitled to benefits as they do not satisfy Habitual Residence Conditions (HRC).
HRC is when a person must reside in a state for a period of two years. However, this is contrary to the Good Friday Agreement whereby all citizens throughout the island of Ireland are entitled to Irish citizenship. Therefore these people are being discriminated against on the fact that they originally came from the six counties.
The EU has previously brought infringement proceedings against the Irish government on the basis that the HRC prohibited freedom of movement and was indirectly discriminatory on the basis of nationality. However, this practice is continuing and leaving many in financial hardship.
In letters issued by the Community Welfare Services in Donegal they have given reasons for the refusal to grant benefits, which are quite simply mind boggling. One of the reasons they gave for refusal to grant benefits is that by living in a rural area people have reduced their prospects of gaining employment. In a country such as Ireland, which is predominantly rural this just doesn’t make sense. It seems that they are suggesting that if you are unemployed you must move to a city to seek work. This is something we will be clarifying with the Irish government to see if this is government policy. This excuse also fails to recognise that Donegal is Derry’s natural hinterland and commuting between the two is a very natural way of life for thousands of people.
I will be working very closely with Sinn Féin elected representatives in other border counties to tackle this issue as this has become a massive problem particularly in these difficult economic times which have led to an increase in those losing their jobs.