Kenny and Gilmore rule out any reverse to budget cuts
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore have ruled out any row-back on the budget in the light of growing unease among backbench TDs in both Government parties about some of its harsher measures, including cuts in the respite care grant.
The €325 cut in the €1,700 grant for respite care yesterday assumed greater importance as a possible stumbling block for some Labour and Fine Gael TDs.
The new property tax, the €5 a week increase in PRSI and particularly the cuts in child benefit were also being viewed as potentially difficult issues.
Mr Kenny, while accepting that many of the budget changes made to achieve a €3.5 billion adjustment were “unpalatable”, nevertheless insisted that all of measures would be implemented.
After meeting US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in Government Buildings, Mr Kenny said: “The budget yesterday was and will be the toughest of this administration’s lifetime. None of the choices were easy; all of them were unpalatable.”
Asked if he would reverse any of the harsher measures, including the cuts to respite care, he responded: “The budget’s gone through yesterday. It is the intention of the Government to carry through the budget as put through the Dáil yesterday.”
Mr Gilmore also set himself against any U-turn. Asked about criticisms that the cut in respite grants was unfair, he said: “I think all of the cuts are very difficult.”
He said that was particularly true for those who had endured most, but the country needed to find its way out of the financial crisis.
A package of tax measures directed at richer people had been the largest tax on wealth ever introduced in Ireland, Mr Kenny said.
A small number of Labour Party TDs, including party chairman Colm Keaveney, have indicated their support may be conditional on changes in the Social Welfare Bill, which will come before the Dáil next week, to give effect to welfare cuts.
Clare TD Michael McNamara has also expressed misgivings. Two Dublin Labour TDs, Michael Conaghan and Eamon Maloney, attended meetings with senior officials of the Department of Social Protection yesterday to outline their concerns about cuts in child benefit and they will hold further meetings today.
“Our concerns are very significant as they were about child benefit, which is especially important in working-class areas which we represent,” said Mr Conaghan, from Dublin South Central. They had started a process where they hoped they could pursue the issue vigorously.
Respite care was described by a number of TDs from both Government parties as having the potential to have the same impact as the cuts for disadvantaged schools and small schools in last year’s budget.
Minister of State at the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes described the cut of almost 19 per cent in the respite grant as “drastic”.
However he ruled out any review on the basis that the Government could not start unravelling the budget. “There is no room for that to be reversed at this stage.”
In the Dáil, Labour Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said the cut in respite grants was better than a cut in the carer’s allowance, which had been protected.