Dáil Éireann - Volume 397 - 14 March, 1990

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Combat Poverty Agency.

1. Mr. J. Higgins asked the Taoiseach, in light of the current high level of poverty, if he will consider involving the Combat Poverty Agency as a social partner in the forthcoming discussions on the next Programme for National Recovery; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The Taoiseach: I do not accept the implication in the Deputy's question. The Combat Poverty Agency have the function of advising and making recommendations to the Minister for Social Welfare on all aspects of economic and social planning. Their views, therefore, will be available to the Government in the context of any negotiations on a programme to follow the existing programme.

Mr. J. Higgins: In view of the fact that the justice commission of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors in the document headed Must the Poor always Wait? estimate that 31 per cent of the population — one million people or one in every three — are below the poverty line, will the Taoiseach agree that these people are largely voiceless but that they have as much right to be at the conference table as the farmers, unions and employers? As they are a major segment [69] of the population and a social partner, will the Taoiseach agree that they should be involved in any programme for national recovery negotiations?

The Taoiseach: It think the Deputy misunderstands the situation. First of all, I do not accept the statistic given by the Deputy. It is an exaggeration——

Mr. J. Higgins: It is not my statistic.

The Taoiseach: I am always a bit doubtful about any organisation that has “major” and “superior” in its title.

Mr. J. Higgins: Even a church organisation?

The Taoiseach: Res ipsa loquitur. It is ridiculous to think that whatever number of people the Deputy is talking about are not represented through different organisations. They are represented by trade unions, farmers' organisations or otherwise and the social partners' structure which we have operated up to now have given comprehensive representation. In addition the Combat Poverty Agency have complete access to the Minister for Social Welfare and, therefore, have that channel of input to the negotiations.

Mr. J. Higgins: While acknowledging that the trade union movement purpose to speak in negotiations for the unemployed and those below the poverty line, will the Taoiseach nevertheless agree that all the other agencies involved have particular vested interests and that the Government strategy in relation to poverty seems to be based on the principle of job creation which we know is a nonevent? Will the Taoiseach also agree that the rising tide theory has been proved not to work anywhere it was tried?

Mr. Dukes: No comment from the Taoiseach.