Labour senator votes against Bill


The Social Welfare Bill has passed committee stage in the Seanad, despite Labour senator James Heffernan voting against the Government

Mr Heffernan made the move over the respite care grant and child benefit cuts. His party said it would not cut child benefit and “that pledge is now broken” and he could not “in good conscience be a party to that”.

There was an “inherent unfairness” in hitting carers and children, the Limerick senator said. There had been a choice between that and taxing high earners and it was decided against.

“I will remain a Labour man and will commit all efforts to reversing unjust cuts,” he said.

“It is not possible to remove the respite care grant from the Bill without derailing and delaying the rest of the bill,” Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton told senators ahead of the vote.

The vote was carried by 31 votes to 28, with independent senator Feargal Quinn supporting the Bill and Labour senator James Heffernan voting against. The Bill will come before the Seanad for reporting stage tomorrow. The coalition has a slim majority in the Seanad with 31 of the House’s 60 members.

Six of the Taoiseach’s nominees are expected to vote against the Bill. The group of independents is Fiach Mac Conghail, Mary Ann O’Brien, Marie-Louise O’Donnell, Jillian Van Turnhout and Katherine Zappone.

Mary Ann O’Brien today said being a carer was a “lonely hard place”with “worry, stress, strain and sleep deprivation”.

Marie Louise O’Donnell said if the delay in the Bill caused by a Seanad rejected cost the Department of Social Protection money was “no reason fro this house not to falter”. “We are a country that spent most of our time making decisions based on fear” she said. “Where is the Government’s honour? Were is the Government’s commitment to the carer’s strategy?” she asked.

Independent Senator David Norris said he would be “ashamed” if it was not sent back by the Seanad to the Government. If it did not reject the Bill the Seanad would become a “rubber stamp” he aid.

The Bill passed through the second stage by 34 votes to 22 yesterday. The Seanad is to vote on the committee stage tonight. If rejected it would return to the Dail for up to 90 days.

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