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Fine Gael MEP targeting disadvantaged for cheap publicity - Crowe

12 January, 2007

Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has accused Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins of deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable families in the state for cheap publicity. He was reacting to the MEP's proposal that Child Benefit be withheld from the parents of children who receive Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

The Dublin South West TD said: "Child Benefit payments are vital in assisting families cope with rising living expenses in this state. While it is constantly peddled that all boats have been lifted from Ireland's unprecedented economic success, the Celtic Tiger has left 100,000 children in poverty.

"Sinn Féin is steadfastly against anti-social behaviour, but removing Child Benefit payments from parents of children with ASBOs will exacerbate problems and is very much a reactionary punishment. We have seen from England that ASBOs have been dished out for ridiculous offences. If Jim Higgins had his way, such families could lose over €160 a month. If there is a child causing problems in a family of several children, the removal of his/her payment would impact harshly on the other children and the family as a whole. Removing such payments would result in children literally going without.

"In the first place Sinn Féin is opposed to ASBOs which are simply a means of fast tracking people into prison, particularly children and young people. They lead to the criminalisation of young people and involve prison sentences for behaviour that in and of itself is not even criminal. Furthermore, mounting evidence from Britain shows they have been a complete failure in reducing anti-social behaviour. Laws are already in place to deal with anti-social behaviour, it is just a matter of implementing them. Sinn Féin has consistently called for the full implementation of the Children's Act for instance.

"Mr Higgins' support of claims that Child Benefit is not being spent on children is disgraceful. Research has shown the exact opposite. Many families rely on such payments to assist them in clothing, feeding and heating their children. Mr Higgins is simply attempting to grab cheap headlines by targeting some of the most vulnerable families in this state. It further points to the confusion within Fine Gael that the party has subsequently distanced themselves from his views. It appears that Mr Higgin's views are even too controversial for the avowedly right-wing Fine Gael."


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