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The real fraud

It seems that Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has kicked off the new year in the same vein as she left off in 2011, issuing statements and plans which imply widespread welfare fraud.

A new plan, we are told, will put "a time limit for social welfare recipients" which is clearly just another swipe at those forced onto the Live Register.

There is no doubt that one of the most socially corrosive crimes is fraud, and welfare fraud is no different. The sad truth of the matter is, however, that we in Ireland have a very high tolerance for it and this is particularly the case when the fraud is perpetrated by those at the top end of the socio-economic ladder -- who, by the way, are responsible for the vast majority of it.

That tolerance also noticeably reduces whenever those on the lower parts of the same ladder are thought to be dipping their fingers.

Surely if Ms Burton is about more than vilifying those unfortunate enough to be unemployed she would come up with a few constructive, meaningful proposals that we as a society should be discussing.

The obvious one that needs to be looked at seriously again is a far-reaching job-sharing scheme. Those persons currently unemployed have an entitlement to work, that entitlement is at the core of the social contract. It should be possible to create an environment in which such job sharing is possible and, given the many benefits it offers, it is surprising that Ms Burton and her advisers have yet to seriously consider it.

Another initiative that she might consider is the imposition of fines on ministers for failure to address the grave social ill that is unemployment. Each minister should suffer an automatic fine for each person still on the full-time unemployment register at the end of each year.

It is time to stop attacking the unemployed and begin to realistically assess the position we are in. Every citizen has a right to a job and we need a minister who will fight to vindicate that right.

Jim O'Sullivan
Rathedmond, Sligo

Irish Independent