Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has called on the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, to ensure that emigrants from Donegal or elsewhere in Ireland returning home are automatically granted social welfare support upon return home.
The Sinn Fein TD made his call following a number of cases his office has dealt with where unemployment assistance has been refused and the returning emigrants have faced great hardship, relying on the financial support of friends and family, while they appeal the decision; a process that often takes months.
Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: “The Habitual Residents Condition (HRC) as it is called has resulted in many returning Donegal emigrants being denied immediate access to social welfare support when they return home.
“I am aware of cases where people have encountered great economic hardship, having to rely on the financial support of friends and family while they appeal a refusal. This is a scandal.”
He said he raised the matter with the Minister last year and understood from her response that this should not happen and that Department guidelines were clear on the matter.
“However, the local social welfare offices are at times clearly interpreting the HRC to mean that unless someone has been resident in the state for the last two years, they are not entitled to support. The Minister now needs to sort this out.
“It is outrageous that people born and reared in Donegal mostly forced to emigrate would be denied social welfare support if they return home”.
“A separate point on the HRC is that this Government and the last have also used this condition to renege on their responsibilities under the Common Travel Area agreement that permits citizens from Ireland and Britain to open movement and social welfare support throughout the two jurisdictions.
“In particular, Irish citizens in the North of Ireland who wish to relocate to Donegal or anywhere else in this state cannot access social welfare support. This is apparently intended as an anti- fraud device. The way to tackle social welfare fraud is to deploy the necessary resources not to deny citizens their rights and defy the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area agreement”.