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Department insists no issue with Joan Burton’s ‘unusual and concerning’ letter to constituents

The letters were delivered in Oireachtas envelopes and headed paper.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Social Protection has insisted there is no issue with Joan Burton sending a letter about new rental rules to some – but not all – of her constituents.

Independent councillor and general election candidate David McGuinness said that some of the Tánaiste’s constituents received the letters – but only those who are on social welfare or are registered landlords.

The letters were delivered in Oireachtas envelopes and printed on headed paper bearing a photo of the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection, the Oireachtas harp logo and the Labour logo:

LetterJoan

The letter updated some of Burton’s constituents about the recent changes to rent reviews which mean that tenants who had their rent increased in 2015 will not face another increase until 2017 at the earliest.

McGuinness said he had been contacted by several constituents about the matter, explaining: “What is particularly unusual and concerning is that all of the recipients are either tenants claiming a social-protection benefit or are landlords directly.

No one can understand why they received these letters from Joan Burton.

He said the residents who got letters had never contacted Burton about the rent issue or any other matter. McGuinness also claimed that other residents on the same estates where the letters arrived did not receive the correspondence.

McGuinness, who previously ran for the Dáil as a Fianna Fáil candidate, said that the incident raised a question as to whether Burton used data from her department to send the letters.

Dublin West By Elections Results David McGuinness Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

However, the Department insisted that the constituents’ information was drawn from publicly available resources and that no internal information from its own database was used.

“Communication with constituents in order to inform them of important information that may be relevant to them is an important element of public representation,” a spokesperson said.

They added: “The addresses were drawn down from a public list of tenancies available on the PRTB website, and matched against addresses on the electoral register, again which is available publicly.

No information from the Department of Social Protection was used at any time in the writing or the issuing of the letters, and no information was sought that is not already publicly available.

They added that there is “no correlation” between householders who were communicated with, and any social protection benefit they may be receiving.

Councillor McGuinness is wrongly and misleadingly claiming there is an issue where none exists.

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