Government wins welfare vote
The Government had a comfortable 87 to 52 majority in the first vote on the controversial Social Welfare Bill, which gives effect to the Budget provision.
There were no defections and Labour chairman Colm Keaveney, who had created doubt about his vote, sided with the Government.
Former parliamentary party members Roisin Shortall, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty voted as expected, against the Bill and with the Opposition.
The Social Welfare Bill gives effect to cuts in child benefit, respite care and PRSI allowances but Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said it provided opportunities for 20,000 people who had been excluded from the employment market.
In the debate Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher hit out at Minister for Social Protection Joan 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, to the respite care grant, 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 ministers for finance and public expenditure.
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer hit out at the “hypocrisy” of Fianna Fáil. “You fiddled the country and you bankrupted and you come in here and play on the fears of vulnerable people Shame on you,” he shouted at Fianna Fail TDs on the opposition benches. He said they had to borrow €42 million daily to run the State.
Earlier tonight the Government was described as a “coalition of the heartless of the gutless” during a confidence debate.
In a sharp attack, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald described the Cabinet as a “grey cabal of pompous ego trippers” and said the “self righteousness of Fine Gael” was only contrasted with the “snivelling submission” of the Labour party.
She was speaking during a heated debate on Sinn Fein’s motion of no confidence in the Government, which was comfortably defeated 88 votes to 51.
Ms McDonald said the coalition had abandoned the middle-class and had “no respect for carers and no regard for what the loss of €325 means to a carer” and the “promise of the democratic revolution is patent nonsense”.
But in a staunch defence of the Government’s record Taoiseach Enda Kenny launched a stinging attack on Sinn Féin.
Mr Kenny described the motion as “nothing more than a politically opportunistic act from a party with nothing to offer to the national debate except easy options and damaging policies”.
He said he would take no lectures “from a hypocritical party who go about implementing tax increases and spending cuts north of the border while opposing every such similar policy down here”.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said “we know that the sharp end of this crisis is being felt every day in households in every town, village and suburb. We will not exaggerate our achievements but the end is in sight. When we win this fight, say goodbye to the troika, when our economy is sound and healthy and we have created more jobs and more opportunities, it will be the men and women of this Government alone who have said that we stood shoulder to shoulder with the Irish people.”
Independent TD Catherine Murphy said that at the time of the Maastricht Treaty Ireland was to get £7.2 billion over five years. But “we’re paying €8.1 billion next year in interest alone on the national debt”.