All eyes on Labour backbenchers ahead of Social Welfare Bill vote
Labour TD Michael McCarthy said the budget was not about the next general election but the next generation. “Frankly, if that means I will be evicted from Dáil Éireann by the people of Cork South West, so be it, because bringing the country back to where it was will require difficult and unpopular decisions.”
He would prefer not to have to introduce the measures but “the clean-up operation in this country, in economic terms, is akin to dealing with the aftermath of a terrorist aeroplane hitting the Sellafield plant. The clean-up operation is toxic, ugly, unpleasant and painful, but it is absolutely essential.”
Government backbencher Michael McNamara said the cut to the respite care grant could be avoided by imposing a 3 per cent surcharge on the universal social charge for pensions of more than €60,000. Only retired bankers, senior civil servants and the former Fianna Fáil ministers “who ran for the hills 18 months ago receive pensions of more than €60,000”.
But the Clare Labour TD said “much as I dislike the worst aspects of the budget, such as the manner of social welfare cuts and PRSI increases, as one Deputy out of 166, I have a choice to make. I do not intend to throw my hands up and walk away from the challenge of supporting a Government which has to take deeply unpopular choices.”
Independent Waterford TD John Halligan warned Labour TDs that when they voted in favour of the Bill “all they will have done is create enormous hardship that will live long in the memories of the 700,000 people and the 200,000 children who will be three years older at the next general election and will remember what has been done to them”.
Fine Gael TD Anthony Lawlor commended the Minister “on the hard decisions that she took”. He said the media had reported plans to cut €540 million from the social protection budget but “we are fortunate that the reduction will only be €390 million, although that in itself will be difficult to achieve”.
He said that in 2007 then minister for finance Brian Cowen “gave away everything”. He increased all core payments by between 10 per cent and 15 per cent. But by 2009 the budget deficit had grown to €25 billion and all core payments were cut. “It is difficult to take Fianna Fáil members seriously when they supported a series of savage cuts in 2009,” Mr Lawlor said.