Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Social Welfare Bill 2021: Second Stage


10:30 am

Photo of John McGahonJohn McGahon (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

It is great to have the Minister in the House in our final days before Christmas. I will follow up a couple of points from Senator Conway. The concept of the social welfare system in any modern society is that it functions as a safety net. It should be for people when they encounter some sort of major unexpected difficulty in life and they should be able to fall back on it. It is a testament to the Irish State when we see how widespread and effective that safety net was for thousands of people throughout the country over the past 18 months. It is another testament to the State to see how effective and reactive the system was in reintroducing supports as quickly as possible, withdrawing them as the country opened again, before reintroducing them as the position got more difficult. That reactive quality is a telltale sign of how successful the Minister's stewardship of the Department has been and how successful the Government has been as well.

We can compare this to other places in the European Union, including our nearest neighbours and other places on the Continent, and the reality is quite stark. The concept of social welfare is to provide a safety net. We were really able to offer a huge safety net to thousands of people who needed it at the very worst time during this pandemic.

As we approach Christmas, I may not have another opportunity to say this but I commend the Minister on the brilliant work she has done in several Departments this year. I compliment the work of her staff in the Department, who have been extremely helpful not just to me but to members of all political parties and none. It is a testament to the Minister's work ethic that she instils the same ethic in her staff. We should take this opportunity to say thanks for that.


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