Monday 26 September 2016

Norris slammed over 'dole shouldn't be used to buy drink' comments

Laura Larkin

Published 12/12/2015 | 07:02

Senator David Norris
Senator David Norris

Senator David Norris has come under fire for claiming that people on social welfare should not be allowed to use their welfare money to buy alcohol.

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The Independent politician said he resented his "tax dollars" being used in this way.

"I hear people on the wireless saying, 'Oh, what about the poor people on the social welfare and they'll be deprived of their few drinks'. I don't spend my tax dollars to buy drinks for people on social welfare," he said.

Ridiculous

"I really don't, and I resent that. I think it's ridiculous. I don't think tax is for people to be drinking all the time. I see them all around my area buying slabs of drinks for virtually nothing."

Mr Norris' comments came during an interview on News-talk Breakfast about minimum alcohol pricing measures introduced this week.

He said Ireland has "gone mad on drink" and that alcohol has become a "human right" for Irish people.

"You look at the streets of Dublin and you see how people are vomiting all over the place and falling," he said.

His remarks drew angry responses from several quarters, with Social Democrats general election candidate Gary Gannon declaring them "abhorrent".

"Senator Norris is essentially suggesting an economic sanction against a section of society who finds itself in a less fortunate position than the senator himself," he said.

"No republic would or should consider stereotyping, stigmatising or sanctioning members of our society based on their economic circumstances."

Several people also pointed to data from 2009-2010 compiled by the Central Statistics Office that shows unemployed people spent less on alcohol and tobacco than those who were employed or-self employed.

Dublin Central Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan said she thought Mr Norris' remarks were an unfair representation of the area.

However, she said she was willing to give the outspoken senator the benefit of the doubt over his controversial comments.

"Knowing David, I'm sure he didn't mean it the way it came out," she told the Herald.

Deprive

"If people are on welfare, who would deprive them of a chance to enjoy themselves or to have a social event?"

Ms O'Sullivan added, however, that it is a good time of year for people to be thinking about their drinking habits in general.

"We have a massive problem in this country with alcohol," she said.

But for Ms O'Sullivan, tackling the drinking culture was not a matter of policing how people spent their money, as "people are responsible for themselves".

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