Labour MEP 'disturbed' by Government policy

A Labour MEP has revealed she is disturbed by some of her party’s austerity measures in Government.

Nessa Childers spoke out as she launched a new report that claimed the poor and vulnerable have been unfairly attacked in Government cuts and tax hikes across Europe.

The study revealed there are higher levels of child poverty, youth unemployment and long-term unemployment in five countries bailed out during the economic crisis – Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Elsewhere, poverty among the employed was highest in Ireland standing at 14.2%, it found.

“I would say ashamed is too strong a word, I would be disturbed by some of the things I see happening in the Irish government and presided over by the Labour Party,” Ms Childers said.

“I am not a member of the Irish government but I consider it my responsibility to attempt to influence those policies because I represent people in Ireland as well out in Europe.”

Sean Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, said his study shows austerity policies implemented in countries in crisis has disproportionately impacted on people who are poor and vulnerable, while failing to address the huge levels of unemployment.

He called for people to be put ahead of financial institutions and for the common good to be put at the heart of economic policies.

“The study clearly sets out the scale of the challenge being faced by policy makers and makes proposals for action they should adopt immediately,” he added.

The report – the impact of the European crisis – is the first to provide an in-depth examination of the impact current policies are having on people in the EU countries worst effected by the economic crisis.

It was carried out for Caritas Europa, a network of 49 social justice and Catholic charities.

Former Green Party politician Deirdre de Burca, now social policy director with the organisation, said charities across Europe have desperate families in need of basic food and clothing.

She revealed she is watching the role of the Labour Party with dismay because of the clear parallels of what happened to the Greens, who she admitted imposed policies they were not comfortable with where the economic analysis was not clear.

“I think the same thing is happening now,” she said.

“The willingness to go along with the logic of austerity, that austerity is somehow going to allow the various European economies to recover in time and I think it requires a leap of faith.”

The report, launched in the European Parliament offices in Dublin, found unemployment reached an historically high level of 25.7 million people - 10.6% of the labour force - in Europe in September 2012, with youth unemployment standing at over 50% in Spain.

It recommended that economic and social policies be integrated at EU level, and for stronger leadership at EU level to address the risk of poverty being experienced by particular groups.

Elsewhere it wants social monitoring in place for countries in EU/IMF Programmes, EU Funds to play a bigger role in addressing poverty and for the EU to increase the involvement of civil society organisations in governance.

Fr Healy warned high levels of child poverty can not be eradicated unless households are taken off the breadline, and he raised concerns about the number of working families in dire need.

“Poverty among those who have a job manifests itself in a variety of different ways,” he said.

“Adults are having to make really difficult choices, for example between food and fuel in a difficult winter.

“I have seen situations where parents go hungry because they want their children to have food and to have access to education.”

The human rights campaigner said people are also skipping prescription medications and health care after charges were introduced.

“There are people who think €10 is nothing, they can give it in a tip at the end of a meal or something,” Fr Healy added.

“Ten euro for somebody who has a poverty level of income is extraordinarily challenging.

“If anything goes wrong or there’s a crisis or they get sick and there’s an additional bill then they are in real trouble and under pressure to go to money lenders who charge an enormous amount of money.

“The consequences are huge and can be avoided if we had a proper set of policies that were built on the basis of putting people ahead of financial institutions.”

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