Cowen accused of 'turning back on unemployed'
Taoiseach Brian Cowen was accused of turning his back on the unemployed today.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore claimed people on the dole were facing a hopelessly depressing outlook with the jobs crisis the last thing on the Government's mind.
Latest figures showed 275,000 people out of work with the number of long-term unemployed more than doubling in the last year to almost half those signing on.
Mr Gilmore accused the Taoiseach of focusing on the country's other economic problems and hoping that job creation would follow when the economy picked up.
"Effectively what the Taoiseach is saying is that when everything else is fixed people might get back to work," the Labour leader told the Dail.
"The Government keeps telling us that we have turned the corner. It seems to me that... as far as people who are out of work is concerned, the only turning the Government has done is turning your back on people who are out of work."
Mr Cowen hit back insisting that the unemployment crisis was not a low priority for the Government with the focus on re-training the unemployed, supporting vulnerable workers and funding job creation.
"It is not correct to say there is a laissez-faire approach, quite the contrary," the Taoiseach said.
"No-one is more conscious of the fact, as we all are as public representatives, of people in our communities who want to find a way forward."
Mr Cowen said the number of training places for the unemployed had been increased and added that job creation went hand in hand with developing a more competitive economy.
The latest unemployment figures issued yesterday revealed a quarter of people aged between 20 and 24 were on the dole. It also showed men made up about three-quarters of those out of work.
And Mr Gilmore warned: "We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.
"It is just not socially sustainable to have that number of young men on the dole."
The Labour leader said the Government was pursuing the wrong policies.
"Saying as you have been saying that whenever everything else is fixed in the economy that somewhere from around the corner that you have turned that you are going to be able to drag people back to employment - that doesn't work."
He added: "It's the last thing on the Government's mind."