IRELAND is “the first in and last out of recession” the Labour Party claimed as figures showed almost 6,000 people joined the Live Register in January – the biggest rise since August.
With unemployment reaching 434,700 – the highest rate since 1995 – Labour leader Eamon Gilmore told the Taoiseach to stop pretending we are an “unwitting victim of some global forces” because “this is a very Irish recession”.
One in three men aged between 21 and 24 are on the dole, 60,000 have emigrated and 319 people are losing their jobs every day.
Mr Gilmore said: “Ireland was the first to go into recession, on 1 January 2008 followed by the rest of the eurozone on 1 April 2008 and the UK on 1 July 2008. All these countries are coming out of recession. The US came out of recession on June 30 last year, France and Germany exited recession on March 31 last year and the UK, the last of the G7 countries to come out of recession, exited on 30 September 2009. But we are still stuck in recession.”
Brian Cowen rejected claims the Government is “complacent” about unemployment and said the “constant despair” of the opposition will not bring about economic recovery.
The latest unemployment rate of 12.7% is a “devastating figure” according to Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny: “The Government’s record of an increase in unemployment from 202,000 in May 2008 to 436,000 now speaks for itself. It is a disaster,” he said during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil. If 60,000 young people had not emigrated, the unemployment figure would have reached 500,000 according to Mr Kenny.
“Those young people are gone. They are in Australia, Canada, America and Britain. They are doing jobs for which they are completely over-qualified because the Government has failed to put any plan or strategy in place,” he said.
But Mr Cowen responded: “Deputy Kenny’s accounts of despair are not where the people are at. They recognise that the country is being led in the right direction.”
The Taoiseach was accused of engaging in “abracadabra” economics after he suggested the figures are not as bad as they might appear because 70,000 of those on the Live Register are engaged in part-time or casual employment.
“There is a great deal of movement on and off the register. It is not the same people,” Mr Cowen said.
But Mr Gilmore, said: “That is abracadabra economics” and the Taoiseach “doesn’t get it”.
“We have this attitude of wanting to hear the praise from the embedded and that we have turned the corner and we are out of recession. Tell that to the 319 people who have lost their jobs every day since the beginning of this year. Tell that to the almost 440,000 people on the live register. Tell the one of out every three young men on the dole or their worried parents that we are out of recession and we are turning the corner.”
Meanwhile economist Alan McQuaid of Bloxhams said: “As regards the January live register figures, it is difficult to know how much of the increase in the numbers signing on can be put down to the adverse weather conditions in the month not just in Ireland but most of the Western world, which hampered economic activity across the globe.”
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