A TD USED a parliamentary question to ask if the Department of Social Protection cuts the dole of people protesting against the government and specifically those involved in recent demonstrations against the installation of water meters.
In an email seen by TheJournal.ie, Dublin North East TD Terence Flanagan, who is part of the Reform Alliance, submitted details of a specific case involving one his constituents to Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.
In a second email Flanagan named the constituent as Mark Egan and provided his address to the department. He said the constituent who reported Egan wished to remain anonymous.
He said he was concerned “that this person is not actively seeking work as stipulated as a condition of receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance” and raised concerns about the man’s “professional protester activities”.
The details of Egan’s case were not contained in the parliamentary question (PQ) as published on the Oireachtas website in line with the standard practice when individual cases are referred to in PQs.
Egan told TheJournal.ie that he was “sickened” by what Flanagan had done.
Flanagan told this website that he did not have a vendetta against anyone, that his office – and not himself – had tabled the question and provided the information on behalf of an elderly constituent. He said it was his role to respond to constituents’ concerns.
“Elderly residents contacted our office, [they] felt intimidated about the protests at the St Joseph’s hospital and they raised these questions,” he said.
The publicly available parliamentary question asked for Burton’s “position regarding social welfare payments (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter”.
In the details supplied in an email to the Department, and seen by this website, Flanagan wanted to know if the government was doing anything to cut the dole payments of people protesting against the coalition.
He specifically identified Egan’s activities at a water meter protest in Raheny earlier this month saying his own constituent was preventing Irish Water from installing meters “often by standing in the holes dug for the meters to be placed in”.
He asked Burton: “Does the Department of Social Protection take any action against social welfare recipients that are visibly engaging on a daily basis in anti-Government protests by reducing their social welfare payments?”
Egan is a member of ‘Dublin Says No’ group which has been staging protests against the installation of water meters in the Edenmore area of Raheny in recent weeks.
He said that Flanagan should have contacted him or used the fraud reporting form on the Department of Social Protection website rather than the system of Dáil questions.
“At the end of the day if that deputy had concerns they could have contacted me,” he said.
Egan has been unemployed for two years and recently completed a course in European Language and Studies in Crumlin College. He said that he applies for at least five jobs a day.
“It’s not like this protest is taking all of my time,” he insisted. “I do have spare time to go out looking for work. I am crying out for a job.”
Egan said that he had recently been called for an interview with a social welfare inspector who suspected he had been doing nixers after he was photographed at a protest. But he said he explained what he was doing and claimed he had not yet heard back.
Flanagan said he did not table the question himself, saying: “I didn’t table that personally myself, my office would have tabled that, they would have received that on behalf of a constituent who made a complaint.”
He said that he did not necessarily agree with the premise that dole should be cut for people protesting against the government.
“I think protesters are entitled to protest in a peaceful manner,” he said. “I think the question was asked if the department takes action against people engaging in protests when they should be presenting themselves for work.”
In her written response to Flanagan’s question, Burton said that her department regularly reviews social welfare claims and can withdraw or reduce payments if a person fails to engage with the employment process. She said her department does not comment on allegations about specific cases or customers.
She added: “All allegations made whether anonymous, confidential or otherwise are examined and if relevant, will be referred for follow-up action.”