I have never reached out to a local TD before. I have always thought it the preserve of the crazies who rave about water fluoridation, or the local businessman trying some parish pump deals. But some things are too much, and even though I don’t expect much from this, I want to at least try.
My name is Harry McEvansoneya. Ever since I first could vote, I have voted for Labour. I voted for yourself in the last general election. I believed the party represented something progressive but sensible, a party that had stock of the environment it was in, but was willing to fight on behalf of those in difficulty, to prevent them from being exploited or abused.
I am 24 years old, I have a degree from Trinity College and I have been unemployed for the last 9 months. During this time, I have been, as the phrase goes, “able for employment and actively seeking employment”, but despite my best efforts, I have been unsuccessful.
A few weeks ago, my welfare payments were cut to €100 a week, apparently due to the fact that young people need less money to survive. I can assure you that this is far from the truth. That sum of money is not one that it is possible to live any kind of dignified existence on, and I have had to start taking on debt just to be able to pay for basics – rent, bills, food. If this is the situation for someone like me, who has been relatively fortunate in their circumstances up until now, I can only imagine how negative the impact has been on people who have not had my opportunities. There’s the abuse I expected Labour would fight against.
There’s the exploitation I expected Labour would fight against, but has instead gleefully embraced as some kind of perverse achievement.
This is a result of a policy enacted by a government of which Labour is a member, where a Labour TD sits in the relevant ministry. I read yesterday that 1,500 young unemployed people, people like myself, are to be forced to take up JobBridge positions, working full time for €150 a week (also an extremely difficult amount to support yourself on), while losing money on transport and other associated costs of having a job – and critically, also losing time they can use to find actual, proper employment. At this stage I am just grateful that I have not been included in this scheme, as I can see nothing more destructive to a person’s attempt to live with dignity and find work than losing so much time for such little reward, or risk losing the entirety of their payments. There’s the exploitation I expected Labour would fight against, but has instead gleefully embraced as some kind of perverse achievement.
I know my impact is limited. I am one voice – one among hundreds of thousands of others – but if they have been ignored too, I am under no illusion that mine is any different. I don’t expect anything to change, except myself. What Labour claims to be, what I thought Labour was, has turned out to be absolutely nothing like what Labour has been in this government. I want Labour to be a party I can support, but it has acted with no regard for people in difficulty and has aided and abetted Fine Gael in enacting some of the most regressive welfare policies in the history of the modern Irish state. And to that end, here is my question – why should I ever vote for you or your party again?
Harry McEvansoneya graduated with a B.A. in History and Political Science from Trinity College in 2010. This article is based on a letter he sent to Alex White, his local Labour Party TD.