asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to a statement made at a meeting of the Letterkenny Urban District Council that there are people in receipt of unemployment assistance who can travel abroad on holidays; and if in view of the seriousness of this allegation he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Unemployment Assistance Recipients.
I have seen a newspaper report of the allegation referred to in the Deputy's question. I have no reason to believe that there is any foundation for the implication underlying the allegation and, indeed, I doubt very much, having regard to the context in which the allegation was made, that it should be taken seriously. As the House well knows, unemployment assistance is subject to a means test and is payable only to unemployed persons who either have no means or only limited means. It can be taken therefore that if any persons drawing unemployment assistance go on holidays abroad they hardly do so on the strength of their own resources but are relying rather on the generosity of a son or daughter or other relative who may already be living abroad.
I should add that unemployment assistance is not paid to persons while they are absent, whether temporarily or permanently, from the State.
I am somewhat of the same point of view as the Minister. The only information I have is what was published in the local newspaper as having been said by two members of the Fianna Fáil Party at the urban council of Letterkenny.
Has the Deputy a question?
The Ceann Comhairle is interested in County Donegal.
I have the utmost respect for the integrity of both of those men, one of whom stated he knew of people in receipt of unemployment assistance who were travelling abroad on charter flights to the United States of America.
Why should they not?
I am asking if this is a fact? Is it the Fianna Fáil members of the urban council of Letterkenny who are telling the truth or the Minister for Social Welfare?
The implication of course in the Deputy's question is that they are using the amount of money I am paying for travelling abroad. We are not paying them sufficient money to send them on charter flights. As the Deputy should well know there are very few people in Donegal who cannot take holidays abroad on charter flights. Many of them have members of their family in different countries and they bring them out. The only thing is we cannot pay them unemployment benefit in respect of the time spent away.
The Minister is now telling us that Councillor O'Donnell and Councillor Gallagher were not telling the truth. Is the Minister now condoning the statement made by Councillor Gallagher and Councillor O'Donnell? Does the Minister now agree with what they said, that those unfortunate people in receipt of unemployment assistance are going abroad on holidays?
That could be so. I hope it is correct. The Deputy did not ask the question if it was from their own resources they were financing those holidays.
I take it that both of those gentlemen were complaining about what was happening? Does the Minister condone the statements made by them?
The only thing one could infer from the Deputy's question is that we are not properly investigating applicants. I think one of the things we are usually blamed for is investigating them too closely.
I was just trying to clear up the point whether Councillor O'Donnell and Councillor Gallagher were on the same beam as the Minister.
The fact of the matter is that people in receipt of unemployment assistance might be abroad on holidays. I have gone on holidays abroad years ago and it did not cost me a penny.
How did you manage that?
I had good relations.
I have no objection to people going abroad and being in receipt of unemployment assistance.
Will Deputy Harte please cease talking about holidays? I am calling Question No. 37.
At least it is a kind thought.