Heffernan defies Labour whip on Bill


Seanad: Labour member James Heffernan voted against the Government on a key stage of the Social Welfare Bill concerning, among other things, a reduction in the respite grant for carers.

In his view, there was an inherent unfairness in hitting carers and children regardless of their personal financial circumstances, especially when there had been a choice to tax high earners as a temporary solidarity measure. He said he would remain a party member and would commit all his efforts to reversing what he saw as unjust cuts.

David Norris (Ind) said that if the members failed to register their disapproval of the respite cut, there was no reason for them to be in the House.

Assistant Government Whip Aideen Hayden (Lab) accused Opposition members of using carers for political purposes.

Labhrás Ó Murchú (FF) said that carers throughout the country had not run away from their responsibilities. It was time for politicians to respect the commitment these people had made.

It was inappropriate that some members of Labour were reportedly claiming as a victory the Government decision to introduce legislation on abortion, David Norris (Ind) said. When Seanad deputy leader Ivana Bacik (Lab) shook her head, Mr Norris said he knew she was not among those to whom he was referring.

Fidelma Healy-Eames (FG) said abortion was not a treatment for suicide risk or mental health problems.