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Fine Gael TDs want welfare reform

A growing number of Fine Gael TDs want to tackle what they see as a “dependency culture” linked to the social welfare system.

A recent Fine Gael party meeting heard a range of proposals to fundamentally change the social welfare code, according to a report in the Sunday Independent.

The reform proposals went beyond stamping out fraud, which has been the main policy of the Minister for Social Protection so far.

According to the report, support for a tougher policy on welfare is growing within Fine Gael.

It said that many backbench TDs want to see urgent action on the issue.

The proposals included a call from one Dublin TD for “a cap on the amount of social welfare funding any one house or family can receive”.

According to the report a number of TDs also expressed their concern about the rise of “serial dads” who father large numbers of children and then, as one backbencher put it, “abandon them to a social welfare system that is far too quick to jump in and allow individuals to abdicate their personal responsibilities”.

One proposal, which was warmly received, was to limit payments to single mothers to two children and that any further children would not be the State’s responsibility.

The meeting also heard from a number of TDs who complained about a new “culture of entitlement” among claimants. One TD noted that “in the past constituents would have asked: ‘What are my entitlements?’ Now they march into the office with a list of them and tell me to get them sorted”.

New Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin, a constituency colleague of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, warned against the unrealistic “culture of entitlement” where people believe “if you are not working you are entitled to the same lifestyle as those who are employed”.

Ms Mulherin slammed Fianna Fail for its policy on long-term unemployment where “the State threw a few crumbs at people in order to keep them quiet and at arm’s length”.

Ms Mulherin also claimed that the newly unemployed were “finding themselves being lost and abused” when they enter the social welfare system. She also said that “fathers on social welfare who have children should be made to face up to their responsibilities by making a contribution to the maintenance of the child”.

Ms Mulherin also said that to create a new ethos of citizenship “all young men and not just the unemployed should have a year of military service”.

The report said that the leadership attempted to calm the situation by suggesting that the current Social Protection Minister Joan Burton be brought along to address the party.

This, however, received a cool response from TDs.

A senior Dublin TD told the Sunday Independent that many of the young backbenchers forcefully “made it clear that Fine Gael was entitled to hold its own opinions and policies on social welfare reform”.