Minister Curran Responds to Pamphlet Entitled "Hidden Messages/Overt Agendas"
Normally I welcome contributions to the debate as I believe it is only by discussion and debate that we can, as a society, deal with the challenges posed to Irish and non Irish alike.
Unfortunately, for reasons I will make clear I cannot afford a welcome to this contribution as I believe there are such omissions as to render the pamphlet seriously flawed.
What are the omissions?
First of all, in the context of this Office no reference is made to the grants given to national groups in various fields to support integration - in sporting and cultural fields, as well as grants made available to local authorities to support integration in their own areas.
The pamphlet quotes, correctly, the McCarthy report as recommending that the Office of the Minister for Integration should be abolished and that language support teachers in schools should be reduced from 2200 to 500.
The Government did not abolish this Office and the reduction in language support teachers was to about 1500 at a cost, incidentally, of about 100 million euro.
The pamphlet does not record this fact.
In dealing with the Live Register the author claims that, in previous recessions, the numbers on the register were in some way hostile to women and older people and, as a consequence, apparently "massaged" so as to show a lower total. While it is not germane to the current pamphlet it is difficult to see how paying pensions instead of unemployment benefits would have been of financial benefit to the Governments of those years.
In this recession the author claims that the Government is encouraging migrants to return home as a means of reducing the numbers on the live register.
In support of this the author quotes an official of the Department of Finance as saying that the overall projection for unemployment had been reduced from 15.5% to 13.75%, predicated on significant numbers of non national workers returning to their home countries and quoting an ESRI projection that 40,000 non Irish nationals would leave in 2010.
Mr. Crowley then says "Unemployment, it would appear is now to managed by encouraging migrant workers to leave Ireland"
This conclusion is simply not sustainable.
In dealing with racism the author states that in 2007 there were 224 racist crimes reported in Ireland, an increase of 29.5% on the previous year.
The figures for 2006 - 173; 2007 - 214; 2008 172; 2009 - 126:
Use of incomplete figures can be misleading. There is no place for racism but a full picture, good or bad, should be given.
The author makes much of the fact that there were only 77 labour inspectors in August, 2009 despite the target having been set by the Government at 90 two years earlier.
The reality of the recession on public sector recruitment might have been worthy of mention alongside the fact that at the time the commitment was made there were 31 such inspectors.
Instead Mr Crowley states "This communicated another clear but unstated political message that racism and exploitation are not as big a problem anymore".
It does no such thing.
On the Equality Authority it is true that Mr. Crowley resigned because he believed that the proposed budget for the Authority for 2009 would not be adequate.
So did some members of the board of the Authority.
The fact is that a new CEO is in place and the work of the Authority continues.
In similar vein Mr Crowley refers to other bodies where funding was reduced or eliminated.
We are in a recession and the ability of the Government to continue to fund activities as generously as in the past is limited.
In dealing with the National Employment Rights Authority Mr. Crowley deplores the fact that inspectors of the Authority were given powers to check for the existence of work permits were required and states "the use....unhelpfully transformed an agency that was established to protect employee rights into a source of fear and anxiety for some migrant workers".
It is surely the case that a worker without a work permit is vulnerable to exploitation, that an employer who employs such a worker is at a competitive advantage vis a vis an employer who pays the appropriate fee and that a separate agency should not be required to check for work permits.
Mr. Crowley in his concluding remarks cites a UNDP report published in June 2009, which suggested ways of opening up migration paths.
The controls which have been put in place are regarded by the Government as sensible.
Concluding the Minister said that while issue could be taken with the use of statistics (for example in regard to the number of complaints made to the Equality Tribunal regard should be had to the outcome rather than the fact of an application) and other aspects of the pamphlet he believed that the facts set out by him supported his view that the pamphlet is seriously flawed and he was left pondering it's title "Hidden Messages/Overt Agendas"