Coalition set to survive Seanad vote on welfare reductions
The Government is set to survive a crucial vote in the Seanad over welfare cuts as the threat of a Labour Party revolt recedes.
Last night it appeared the support of just one Labour Senator remained in doubt after days of speculation that the Government could face an embarrassing defeat.
At least four Labour Senators had expressed reservations about supporting the Social Welfare Bill which gives effect to the welfare changes announced in the budget.
Debate on the Bill will begin in the Seanad tomorrow and will continue until Thursday.
There has been considerable nervousness in Government about the prospects of getting the Bill passed, due to the reservations expressed by a number of Labour Senators. However, one of the doubtful Senators said yesterday he would back the Bill; two others who declined to comment are believed to have assured the party leadership they will vote for it; and the position of one remains in doubt.
Roscommon Senator John Kelly told The Irish Times he would be supporting the Bill.
“A major issue for me was the retention of the €8 million funding for home-help hours, and I made this very clear to the party leadership before the budget,” he said.
“The matter was addressed to my satisfaction.”
Senators John Whelan from Laois and Denis Landy from South Tipperary had expressed particular concern about the cut in child benefit but are now expected to back the Bill after consultations with the party leadership.
Doubt remains only about the position of Limerick Senator James Heffernan, who yesterday repeated his concerns and said he would not be bullied into voting one way or the other on the Bill.
“I am unconvinced at the moment,” said Mr Heffernan, who added that he would be taking note of what proposals are presented to the Labour group of Senators.
Child benefit commitment
They are due to meet Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton tomorrow in advance of the debate on the Bill.
Some of the party’s Senators have expressed a desire for a commitment from the Minister that there will be no further across-the-board cuts in child benefit during the lifetime of the Coalition.Labour parliamentary party chairman Jack Wall has been keeping in touch with the Senators about their concerns.
Mary Ann O’Brien, one of the Taoiseach’s nominees to the Seanad and a co-founder of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation, said she intended to vote against the Bill.
“I would have to do so because of the cut in the respite care allowance. Unless you have been a carer, with all the exhaustion involved, perhaps even being on the brink of suicide at times, you cannot understand all that is involved,” said Ms O’Brien, who with her husband Jonathan Irwin cared for their son Jack at home until his death.
Mr Irwin called on all Senators to vote against the Bill.
The Coalition has a slim majority in the Seanad with 31 of the House’s 60 members.
It appeared yesterday there would be no immediate move by the Labour Party hierarchy to try to remove rebel Galway East TD Colm Keaveney as party chairman.
Mr Keaveney was elected to the position at last year’s Labour Party conference and, unless he steps aside voluntarily, will remain in the chair until the 2013 party conference, next autumn.