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Criminal Justice Bill addresses none of the causes of begging – Ó Snodaigh

10 June, 2010 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon on the Criminal Justice Public Order Amendment Bill Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson described the legislation as a missed opportunity that does not address any of the many causes which give rise to begging.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also said that the government's use of the Habitual Residence Conditions to prevent people from qualifying for even a basic social welfare payment in this state is making people destitute and will in some cases lead to them begging to survive.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

“This Bill is a missed opportunity. It does not address a single one of the many complex causes which give rise to begging.

“The Bill provides for imprisonment of up to one month on summary conviction for the relevant offences. Of all the potential responses available – surprise, surprise the government opt for prison. Prison is about the most expensive and least cost effective response available.

“What sort of a signal does this Bill send to all those who are down on their luck at the moment? Once again the government are all about the big stick! They are more interested in passing this legislation than sorting out the crisis.

“They are giving just €100 a week to young people who are unemployed. Some of these people have debts. Some have mortgages. €100 doesn’t go very far. Destitution gives rise to begging and this government has chosen to make people destitute.

“A number of constituents, including returned Irish, have come to me detailing desperate scenarios of poverty and of being forced to sleep on friends’ couches and to pawn highly sentimental items. All because of their being denied even the most basic social welfare payments because of the Habitual Residence Condition requirement.

“I believe that the Habitual Residence Condition is being used to exclude many, Irish and non-Irish alike, from welfare support. I have brought this absolutely unacceptable situation to the Minister’s attention time and again but he is in denial as to its impact.

“The Minister is obviously completely out of touch with what is happening on the ground in his own department.” ENDS

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