A diplomatic row is brewing after reports that a Polish social welfare recipient quit her job to scrounge off the Irish state were described as inaccurate by the country’s ambassador.
The original article, in the Irish Independent, claimed that a Polish immigrant called Magda lived near the beach in Donegal and said that working for the minimum wage ‘made no sense’. The article has since been removed from the newspapers website.
The article, translated from a Polish newspaper feature, also claimed that Magda spent her days walking the beach, surfing, chatting to locals and taking a course in Hawaiian massage.
Now one of Poland’s leading newspapers and the country’s ambassador to Ireland have claimed that the article was badly translated.
The country’s ambassador to Ireland Marcin Nawrot said the original article had been inaccurately translated and cited potential damage to the reputation of Poles living in Ireland, according to the Irish Times.
“I can assure you that people like Magda constitute a very small minority of Poles in Ireland, and are in no way representative of the entire Irish-based Polish community,” he said.
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“Magda did not describe Donegal in the article as a s...hole, as had been reported. Magda described her life on unemployment benefit as less stressful than before, but expressed unhappiness about not working for a living.”
The ambassador claimed that the original article published in Poland actually quoted her as saying: “I don’t want to live at the Government’s cost, which is why I treat this help as an opportunity to start my own business. For the last five years I was paying my taxes here, so I’ve earned my benefits.”
‘Magda’ was quoted as saying she receives an allowance of €188 per week plus €59 for her flat in Donegal and €20 for fuel – giving her a total of €267. (about 350 dollars) This is €67 more than she was earning as a waitress in a local hotel and more than she might hope to earn from the social welfare system in Poland.
“How am I holding up? Great. I move on and change. I can breathe,” she says of her situation.
A local politician, Jimmy Harte, described her comments as “outrageous”.
He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he would “willfully pay for her airfare back to Poland...If she had any humility in her at all, she would just leave Donegal and go back to Poland,” he said.
The Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper features editor Mariusz Szczygiel told the Irish Times that the article ran as part of a package presenting both the positive and negative sides of the Polish emigrant experience around Europe.
“Since Poles living in Ireland claim all those benefits legally, I see no problem with that,” he told paper, adding that the article provoked a storm of critical remarks on Gazeta Wyborcza’s website.
A Polish woman living in Ireland wrote on the site: “I cannot read the article because I am so mad . . . We pay high taxes so people like that can have a nice living.”