At least nine Labour TDs oppose some budget cuts
Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney has said he had received more than 200 replies to an email he sent to some 1,400 party members, as of yesterday, the vast majority of which share his criticisms of cuts and taxes announced in the budget.
Mr Keaveney, who represents Galway East, has been the most outspoken Labour deputy in his criticism of the budget. He has raised concerns principally about cuts in child welfare but also about the scrapping of the PRSI exemption and the cut of €325 in the carer’s respite grant.
As chair of the party, Mr Keaveney has said it is his role to communicate with and listen to the party grassroots and convey their concerns to the party leadership. He said he would use the correspondence as part of an intense campaign this week to convince the leadership to rethink some of the cuts.
At least nine of the 33 TDs in the parliamentary party have expressed concern about the impact of the budget on lower- and middle-earning families; most of it centred on child benefit. These include Mr Keaveney, Clare TD Michael McNamara, Robert Dowds, Eamon Maloney, Eric Byrne, Michael Conaghan, Ann Phelan, Joanna Tuffy and Brendan Ryan.
Since returning to their constituencies at the weekend, there has been growing public unease among Fine Gael TDs about the measures, including respite care. Donegal North East TD Joe McHugh and Cork South Central deputy Jerry Buttimer have been been sharply critical of this change.
As reports of Fine Gael backbench unrest increased, Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes reiterated he did not see “any rowback” on the respite grant. Few Fine Gael backbenchers contacted about the grant cut responded to calls.
Speculation had increased last week about a review of the €325 cut following a radio interview in which Mr Hayes said if mistakes had been made they could be corrected. But he said he had not been quoted in full and he did not see where “bits of the budget can be roped off”.
The Dublin South-West TD said “the budget has been done” and the respite grant had had trebled during the boom years, “going from €400/€500 to €1,700”. “I know it is difficult for people” but “I don’t see any financial opportunity” to reverse the cut.
Dublin Mid-West Fine Gael TD Derek Keating was optimistic a solution could be found. “I’m hoping we can resolve it.”
TDs will vote on Thursday on the Social Welfare Bill, which gives effect to the cuts. Asked his voting intentions, Mr Keating said, “I think there’s a long time to go to the vote.”
For his part, Mr Keaveney would not be drawn on how he will vote when the crucial divisions are called in the Dáil.
“That is not the way I play it. I have to make a judgment call. Before that I will make a great attempt this week to alleviate the scale of the impact on women and children in this budget.”