Welfare Fraud, 1847


A ledger, discovered in Co Waterford, has come to light which contains the “Relief List” of the local destitute in 1847. The poignant document contains the names, addresses, ages and other personal details of people applying for daily food rations during the Famine. Claimants were categorised as being either “Helpless Poor” or “Able-Bodied Poor”.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton could have written the instructions designed “to deter dishonest persons who are in employment or earning a livelihood from registering themselves as destitute and from applying for relief”.

The Victorian pen pushers   insisted that starving claimants – who were dying in droves – “must apply in person daily” or else “send a medical certificate of illness”.



Welfare Claimants: Deserving And Undeserving Poor (Michael Parsons, Irish Times – scroll down)

27 thoughts on “Welfare Fraud, 1847

    1. Funk

      Nothing wrong in principle it’s just how it is done.

      I can’t speak from experience as I’m still employed but my father in-law constantly talks about the fact that he paid PRSI for 40 years and now has to suffer the indignity of being consistantly harassed and accused, jumping through hoops and constantly being made to feel like a drain on society by the welfare officers only so he can draw his dole until he reaches retirement age in three years.

    2. well

      Nothing, but this isn’t want the government is doing, what they are doing is setting up a system that makes if as difficult as possible for the people who are genuinely in need of the welfare to gain access.

      Then calling anyone that disagrees a fraud.

  1. Orieldude

    If you can’t make an argument on behalf of those suffering in this recession without making reference to the famine, then you have no argument.

      1. cluster

        Comparing the current recession and society’s response to the famine is beyond offensive. Is Chompsky endorsing this? No accompanying *sighs* on this? Is public discourse in this country really this childish?

        I am happy paying tax, I think we should be paying more tax but not to be pissed up against a wall (which much of it is). So yes, it is certainly not the only action the government should take but Burton is completely right to try minimise welfare fraud. Why is this even a debate?

  2. Jason O'Mahony

    This country is great for people demanding others be liberal spending THEIR money. If you want to boost welfare spending, donate some of your own money to one of our many excellent charities.

    1. Harry

      Ireland has one of the lowest tax rates in the OECD, so in reality we’re not actually that good at it at all.

        1. cluster

          What is the relevance of, ‘he worked in the construction sector’? Are no civil engineers, architects, construction lawyers, builders, landscape gardeners, tradesmen etc. to be taken seriously?

          Typically (boom aside) 10% of GDP of a developed country relates to construction (roads, energy, buildings etc.) Everyone involved is a lunatic?

  3. Fat Frog

    Have the rates of welfare fraud increased since the recession hit in proportion with the increased numbers signing on? I doubt it.

    Those responsible for administering the Social Welfare system to have had safeguards in place to prevent fraud- recession or no.

    What disgusts me is the over-emphasis on fraudsters at a time when so many who would like to be working are reliant on welfare. As Funk outlines above in the case of his father-in-law, Joanie and Co are acting in a heavy-handed way with people who have paid their dues and who are unemployed through no fault of their own and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

    A couple of years ago Government was investing in social cohesion and building social capital within communities, now we have the “grass up you neighbour” hotlines reminiscent of East Germany under the Stasi.

    Even more disgusting is how the real fraudsters responsible for ruining our economy get away without sanction and how the “i’m alright Jack” brigade so easily fall in line with their inappropriate condemnations. Suckers.

    1. Fat Frog

      Should read *I expect those responsible for administering the Social Welfare system to have had safeguards in place to prevent fraud- recession or no.*

      C’mon BS- editing function for our won comments please.

    2. Fergd

      Is there a Godwin’s Law for mentioning the Stasi?
      You have no f**king clue what the Stasi were like and your analogy is nonsense.
      Catching welfare fraud is just as valid as dealing with white collar crime. The fact they are not doing the latter does not change the fact they should be applauded for finally managing the former.

      1. Fat Frog

        *For the police state to function fully however, participation from amongst the populace was key. Their vital tool here was to be the Inofizelle Mitarbeiter (I.M). IMs were unofficial collaborators who informed on work colleagues, friends, and even their own spouses.*
        From Living with the Enemy: Informing the Stasi in the GDR. by David Cook.

      2. Xiao Liu

        It wasn’t such a terrible analogy, I thought. Just that in the GDR you’d’ve grassed up your neighbour for ideological crimes like listening to capitalist radio or having relatives in the West, whereas here money is the one and only issue. I think that makes it more defensible, so the Stasi analogy is a little red and herring-like.

        1. Fat Frog

          Fair enough. Maybe I did bring out the big guns unnecessarily- seemed big AND clever at the time. *gets coat*

  4. paul

    I don’t see why my taxes should go to support these feckless bludgers, if they can’t be bothered to sign on then they should starve.

    1847 Broadsheet commenter.

    1. Harry

      Is it my fault these people haven’t worked to get themselves into better economic circumstances? Why should I have to pay for their failings in life?

      – Sir Charles Trevelyan

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