Dail Debate on Strategic Bank – Dail Eireann – 28th April 2010
Deputy Dan Neville
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Labour Party’s proposals to deal with the economic crisis. Jobs are among the most important social aspects of this crisis. There has been extensive debate on the economic implications but the social repercussions for those who are unemployed must also be addressed. Reference was made to the statistic that 438,000 people are unemployed but when one speaks to someone who has become unemployed, one understands the emotional and relationship crises that arise and the way that depression can take hold. Every individual has his or her own problems. I speak from experience because I became unemployed in 1988 and spent the following two years visiting my local Garda station and post office. I had a young family and a mortgage and found it extremely difficult to survive. It is only a small exaggeration to compare the experience to the death of a close relative.
The Government has to restore confidence to the economy by showing leadership. People will not move on until positivity is restored. While it is unacceptable that we have an employment rate of 15%, this means that 85% of people are employed. The latter are the key to restoring confidence in the economy. We have to change the message that viable businesses cannot get support if we are to restore that confidence, however. In the near future, we will need electrical contractors, plumbers and other skilled workers but they are going out of business or emigrating. The Labour Party motion contributes to the goal of getting credit flowing again.
We know from research on the period between 1929 and 1940 that suicide levels increase during economic downturns. In the first half of last year, suicides increased by 35%. That is an important aspect of the economic crisis. We have identified the need to increase the social welfare budget and disagree with individual reductions.
We must provide the budget to give those who are unemployed some form of financial support to live from day to day. However, there are other needs presenting that must be recognised in the same way, given the whole area of distress caused by unemployment and its financial implications. Much distress is caused by the threat or the fact of losing one’s home, and this creates tensions and difficulties within families, within marriage and for cohabiting couples, and we know there is an increase in divorce during times of crisis.
These problems exist but are not recognised. We like debating economics but, while we must debate the economic implications of what is happening and how we are to get out of this situation, we must also recognise there is another aspect that is hurting many people.