Wednesday 23 January 2019

Advocacy group claims squeezed middle paying for 'welfare nation'

The Hibernia Forum calls for Government accountability

Stephen Kearon
Stephen Kearon

Myles Buchanan

An independent advocacy group has slammed Ireland as a 'welfare nation' overly dependent on state payments.

The Hibernia Forum formed in 2015 and is dedicated to the principles of a free market, individual liberty and prudent government.

Among its members is Stephen Kearon of Ballinaclash, Peace Commissioner, secretary of the Fianna Fáil Wicklow and District Cumann and former Government special adviser.

Mr Kearon is adamant that Ireland has a huge welfare dependency and the squeezed middle is paying for it.

'According to the Department of Finance paper, we've become a welfare nation 'overly dependent' on state payments compared to other countries: almost every person in Ireland benefits, directly or indirectly, from some form of social welfare payment which amounts to €20 billion a year.

'Quangos and left wing commentators say this 'shows the need' for such dependency' to alleviate poverty and inequality,' sad Mr Kearon. 'But surely it is the very opposite. Key State benefits are universal and go to everybody, regardless of means and, as for increasing jobless payments ,as happened in the last two budgets, this only encourage dependency and is a clear disincentive to work at a time of a booming economy and unfilled vacancies. But there are so many aspects to the welfare issue. The main point is that quite simply our welfare culture got way too big and generous in the Celtic Tiger years and was never reformed, despite calls by Troika and efforts of Joan Burton as Tanaiste, to her credit'.

Ireland has the highest long term unemployment figures in the EU and Mr Kearon remains convinced that there is a lack of political will to try and tackle the issue.

'Our jobless benefit is actually not as high as many other EU States, but we let people stay on the dole forever almost, even during boom times, and even though we have much better employment prospects than our sluggish European neighbours. That's why people come here for jobs. The UK is of course, much less attractive for such allowances. And there is no appetite to change this in our populist political system. The Government has no ideology or core beliefs and happily dish out public money to appease quangos and the poverty industry. Most crucially, all of this welfare money has to be paid for by our squeezed middle, our coping classes and working families, who are paying up to 50 per cent in tax on income over €35,000 and who are crippled with travel costs and welfare. They don't speak up enough, and until they do, the politicians will do nothing'.

Mr Kearon remains worried that high State spending leaves the country open to another crash.

'The pre-budget reports concluded that we rely too much on what it calls 'monetary social transfers' to address 'social inequalities'. And yet having made its rather damning assessment, the Government report then offers six potential options for yet more spending in October's budget. Nothing changes.'.

Anyone in Wicklow interested in joining the Hibernia Forum can contact Stephen Kearon at for more details.

Wicklow People