The twitter bubble of Irish politics has been nothing if not intriguing over the past month or so. The Barry Cowen fiasco, Super Junior Ministers pay rise, Eamon Ryan nodding off during a vote, Richard Bruton showcasing his 6 pack and, of course, “the brits being at it again” as the Guardian attempted to commandeer Paul Mescal and Andrew Scott as thoroughbred Brits, despite the two actors hailing from Maynooth and Dublin respectively. But in amongst all of this, the government still found the time to make the U-turn on a pretty poor policy to begin with, if you’ll pardon the pun.
A mere 4 days ago, an Tánaiste told RTE that the “department of social protection gets information from the airports and if somebody is not genuinely seeking work their welfare payments can be stopped”, only for Minister Heather Humphreys to explicitly say to the Dáil that “the Dublin airport authority does not pass travel information to the department of social protection”, those two claims seeing rather at odds with one another. But of course, the FG white blood cells of twitter rushed to clot the PR wound, asserting that people on job seekers should be seeking jobs and that being on holiday obviously means you are not seeking a job and if you are not seeking a job then you are not entitled to the jobseekers payment. Perhaps those on jobseekers’ allowance should not be allowed to travel abroad at any time if that is the case. Perhaps every hour of every day should be spent scouring the web for that elusive minimum wage job, or if the weather is good, they should be going door to door, CV in hand, “like the good old days”, otherwise you are branded a waster.
Even with the payment being withdrawn, it is such an inconsequential amount of money not being distributed that one has to question who thought this policy creation was a good idea. As Micheál Martin pointed out, this is only about 100 people in a scheme of 270’000, so the financial benefit is a drop in the ocean, but the potential for it to play out as an attack against the poor would have been abundantly clear. And that is exactly what has happened. Public backlash and opposition has led the government to stick it in reverse, and roll back once again.
What we come away with from this policy wreckage, is that those on welfare can indeed go on holiday. It’s against government advice but no longer against government policy. So, they don’t want you to go, but if you’ve already paid for the holiday then fair enough, but if you can cancel it and get the refund or some vouchers they encourage you to do just that, but if it is something you were really looking forward to, then sure this time has been hard on everyone and we all deserve a little break. But don’t go on holiday and have a lovely trip away.