All eyes on Labour backbenchers ahead of Social Welfare Bill vote
Earlier in the debate, Independent Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly sharply criticised the time allowed to debate the legislation. “This Bill will push many people into poverty, yet the Government will not even allow our national Parliament sufficient time to debate it. What is the Government afraid of?” he asked. “Is it afraid its backbenchers may get time to speak...is the Government afraid the people will see understand the impact this Bill will have?”
He said the Bill “will push men, women and children in this country into poverty. We do not know how many it will push into poverty, because the Government has not even had the decency to conduct a proper poverty impact assessment.”
Fine Gael backbencher Derek Keating called for an end to payments to women who had a number of children with “multiple fathers”. Mr Keating claimed he had come across “multiple cases” of women caring “not for one child or two, but for three and four children by multiple fathers who are uncaring and failing in their duties of care and support, with the consequences picked up by the taxpayer”.
He said it was “morally and socially wrong” for the State to be funding services for these women “because of the failings of the fathers of these children”. The State “cannot continue to pick up this expense for these new arrangements where men, irresponsible fathers who do not accept their responsibilities, are simply coming and going in a blended family type relationship”.
In the debate, Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher hit out at Ms Burton, claiming she had been “acting as the Florence Nightingale of the Social Welfare Bill, as if she is not responsible for the cuts to respite care grants, to child benefit, to the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance, to farm assist, to jobseeker's benefit, to the redundancy payments scheme, to the supplementary welfare allowance, to the back-to-education allowance... and to household benefit, telephone benefit and other packages for existing recipients”. He said she was “as culpable as the four horsemen of austerity” - the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure.
Fine Gael TD Liam Twomey said some Fianna Fáil TDs needed a “psychological evaluation because of the way they can come into the House and speak as if they personally had nothing to do with the ruination of our economy in recent years”. He said it was extraordinary, “but what is more extraordinary is the way we have managed to present a budget that does not cut social welfare rates or increase income tax”.