Labour TD criticised by group of single mothers


A LABOUR TD came in for sustained criticism by a group of single mothers yesterday for his refusal to vote against the Social Welfare Bill in the Dáil tomorrow.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin was among a group of about 11 TDs and Senators who attended a press conference yesterday hosted by groups opposed to plans by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to restrict welfare support to lone parents once their youngest child reaches seven. The measure is being presented as an incentive to lone parents to find work.

Lone parents group Spark (Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids) argues “seven is too young” for single parents of children to be compelled out of full-time parenting and into the labour market.

Ms Burton said last week she would not implement section 4 of the Social Welfare Bill, due to be voted on in the Dáil tomorrow, without a firm “bankable” commitment in December’s budget that there would be widespread provision of affordable childcare.

Mr Ó Ríordáin said he was “deeply concerned about child poverty” and he was happy that Ms Burton had said section 4 would not be implemented without adequate childcare provision. He would be voting in favour of the Bill on that basis.

Grace Costigan, a single mother, asked Mr Ó Ríordáin to vote against the Bill.

“You know it’s the right thing to do, Aodhán. If you do we will stand behind you. The safest thing to do for lone parents is to leave section 4 out, or vote No to this Bill.”

Mr Ó Ríordáin said: “For some reason I have become the focus of this meeting, and not the children and lone parents who are the reason I am here, and I don’t think it’s fair.”

“I’ve made you the focus,” said Ms Costigan, “because you’re the only one in this room who is going to vote Yes .”

Among other TDs present were Richard Boyd Barrett and Joan Collins (People Before Profit), Clare Daly (Socialist Party), Éamon Ó Cuív (Fianna Fáil), Patrick Nulty (Labour Party), Luke Flanagan, Catherine Murphy and Stephen Donnelly (Independents) and Aonghus Ó Snodaigh (Sinn Féin). Senator Jillian van Turnhout (Independent) was also there.

Darragh O’Connor, Siptu’s community sector organiser, said unless cuts to community childcare were reversed it was impossible to see how the Government could implement section 4 of the Bill in December. “As childcare is a key part of any solution for lone parents accessing work, I welcome the statement by the Minister that the one-parent family payment will only be restricted if a credible commitment on childcare provision is given by the Government.”