Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - County Donegal Worker's Insurance.

Wednesday, 7 July 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 255 No. 5

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[793]11.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has made any inquiries about the insurance of a person (name supplied) in County Donegal who was working in Scotland; and, if so, what the result was.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  The Embassy at London has been in touch with the British authorities concerned. I understand that the person named had not the minimum requisite number of contributions to enable his widow to qualify for death benefit or widow's benefit under the National Insurance Acts. The authorities are, however, looking into the question of whether the widow is entitled to any other benefit and they have promised to expedite a decision.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  The person concerned had been in employment and qualified for the necessary number of stamps. The employer failed to stamp his cards. Will the Minister now take the appropriate action with the person concerned, the contractor?

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  Following the suggestion made by Deputy Coughlan in the House this is being looked into very closely by the Embassy in London with the authorities in Scotland with a view to ensuring that in the future this type of situation will not arise.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  I am not satisfied. Is the Minister not aware of the negligence of the employer concerned in refusing to stamp the cards of this person who was killed tragically, that no inquiries were made and as a result nothing was done about it? Will he now take steps to ensure that what has been neglected in the past will now be rectified so that the parents of this unfortunate boy from Mullins in Donegal will be compensated? That is only plain justice.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  I agree with much of what the Deputy says in that there is an obvious case of injustice. One decision that has been taken after consultation between the Irish Embassy and the authorities in Scotland and the Insurance Ministry in Britain is that these workers will not be allowed to [794] declare themselves as self-employed in the future and thus avoid the payment of insurance contributions. That was a loophole in the past. It has now been decided that this will not be done in the future. Administratively they cannot declare themselves as self-employed and so avoid the payment of contributions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Question No. 12.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  Will any redress be made? The employer, as the Minister is well aware, had been illegally employing these people. Will the Minister now take steps to ensure that these people will be brought to justice and made to compensate these unfortunate people whom they hijacked over there in Scotland?

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  As far as the future is concerned——

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  I am not talking about the future. I am talking about what happened this unfortunate person in the past.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  As far as the future is concerned, the authorities have got the matter under control now.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  I am happy enough about that but, nevertheless——

Deputy Harte rose.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Harte.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  With all due respect to the Chair I found out what happened and I am entitled to follow it up. Deputy Harte has no question on the Order Paper. I am going to continue this and I am going to see it to the end.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Deputy Harte is also entitled to ask a question.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  He has no question on the Order Paper. Deputy Coughlan has and Deputy Coughlan is going to be satisfied. I think I am entitled to that from the House. I want to know now what steps the Minister will take to rectify the injustice that has been done [795] in the past. I am perfectly happy with what is to happen in the future; we are all glad of that, but I want to know what action will be taken by the Minister and his Department to see that justice and fair play are given to this particular family from Donegal?

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  The only practical thing we can do now, by reason of the non-contributions involved is to see whether under the British Industrial Injuries Act compensation can be paid. The British Ministry concerned is looking at the moment into the feasibility of doing that.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  Will any action be taken against the employer, as should be done? That is what I want to know.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  That is a matter for the British authorities and they are considering that at the moment as well.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Order.

Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  The Irish embassy in London have, at all stages, been fighting this case of injustice as, indeed, I appreciate Deputy Coughlan has as well.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan  Zoom on Stephen Coughlan  Not until we raised it here.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  The Minister states that the claim by the labour bosses is that these men were self-employed. Surely this is a lame excuse for the Minister to put forward? Does the Minister not agree that the British authorities have ways and means of establishing whether a person is self-employed or not and it is quite obvious to all concerned that these people are not self-employed? Therefore, in support of Deputy Coughlan's question, is it not right to take action against the labour bosses so that money can be collected from them for the non-payment of stamps and that the widow of this unfortunate person will have some means of support in the future? There is no point in making promises about the future. The question relates to a specific family.

[796]Mr. B. Lenihan: Information on Patrick J. Lenihan  Zoom on Patrick J. Lenihan  The next of kin have been fully informed as to their rights in the matter and the question of prosecution is a matter for the British authorities. All I can assure the House is that the subterfuge by reason of which this situation arose will, in the future, be discontinued and these men will not be allowed to have themselves declared self-employed. That loophole has been closed.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  Question No. 12. We cannot discuss the question all evening.

Mr. Harte: Information on Patrick D. Harte  Zoom on Patrick D. Harte  This satisfies Deputies of the House and it will read well in the Press but it still does not answer the question.


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