Sinead Ryan: Criminal Dundon's €8K two fingers to the State
IT wasn't so much the tacky awfulness that made a mockery of a little girl's first Holy Communion day that galled people, but the fact that her father, who spent upwards of €8,000 on the garish display is permanently unemployed and in receipt of social welfare payments -- taxpayers' money.
Anyone who saw the pictures of a small child dressed up like Jordan, complete with Cinderella horse-drawn carriage, was appalled. No doubt the girl herself was delighted with all the pomp and ceremony, but by indulging his little girl with this lavishness, her father, convicted criminal Wayne Dundon, was in reality giving a giant two fingers to the State.
The ostentatious day out, complete with designer dresses in matching colours, professional photographer and a lavish hotel meal, is one at which those citizens who are genuinely unemployed, struggling to pay for even the simplest special day for their youngsters will feel outraged.
How many ordinary law-abiding families had to say 'No' this year to a hotel reception, 'No' to an expensive dress or 'No' to a big party because they have difficulty putting food on the table, never mind ordering glass carriages with footmen.
Limerick Mayor Kevin Kiely said it was an "appalling and disgraceful" affront to the people of his city.
Indeed, it is to us all.
For it is we who are, in no small part, paying towards the young Dundon girl to enjoy her day out in such ostentatious circumstances.
Let us just remind ourselves of this upstanding citizen whom we support: Dundon was released from jail earlier this year after serving just over five years of a seven-year (appealed) sentence for threatening to kill Ryan Lee, who bravely gave evidence that led to his imprisonment.
Yes, the 'good behaviour' argument again, unfortunately.
He has no shortage of income -- from whatever dubious source -- and enjoys nothing more than parading around his city showing off his wealth.
It must have been a touching and sentimental moment when his estranged father Kenneth Dundon, the child's grand-father, found himself suddenly able to attend the celebrations.
This is because he's been banged up for the last six years for murder.
Presumably they were able to swap porridge stories as they reminisced over their lives of crime while the taxpayer got another round in.
Mayor Kiely might well think the entire debacle a disgrace and has called, probably futilely, on the Minister for Social Protection (now isn't that ironic, that protection is exactly what he is offering to this criminal), to "stop all social welfare payments to that family straight away," adding, "He's throwing down the gauntlet to the State. It's up to the State to come after him."
Indeed -- but what are the chances?
The State has proven itself extremely efficient at stopping the social welfare payments of a family that earns €10 over the assistance threshold, or taking medical cards from people in need, or cutting pension benefits for the over 70s, but extraordinarily slow at targeting abuse where it is obviously and clearly displayed.
The department has been successful at stopping welfare abuses from north of the border -- indeed, they have saved us a great deal from nefarious Northern claimants who saw collecting Irish dole payments as a burgeoning hobby -- replacing pig smuggling and diesel washing as useful things to do with their time.
Thanks to extra resources and staffing, the Department saved over half a million just from a vehicle stop-and-check policy at border dole offices in 2009.
In total, over €60m was saved last year through cracking down on fraudulent dole payments.
And yet, we see, very obviously and outwardly, that there are claimants flouting the rules, openly and arrogantly.
Why they don't have a social welfare officer on their doorstep this morning is outrageous.
People are angry at any perceived waste of our valuable country's resources, and have shown this by reporting fraud.
There was a rise of 70pc in reported cases last year.
Well, anyone at the Department of Social Protection can open up the daily newspapers and see a flagrant abuse.
The question is: what will they do next?