Possibility of budget defections recedes
The possibility of any Coalition defection on the budget receded yesterday as backbench TDs and Senators from both parties said they were resigned to the budget going through in its entirety without amendments.
Ahead of the commencement today of a Dáil debate on the Social Welfare Bill, a representative group of the 25 or so TDs from Labour and Fine Gael who were most unhappy with the budget conceded they could not convince the Government to revisit any of the more controversial cuts or taxes.
The Bill will give effect to cuts such as those in child benefit and respite care. Both parties said yesterday they expected all their parliamentarians to hold the Government line.
This came after a succession of Ministers, including Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, had over the weekend asserted there would be no rowback or U-turn on any budget measure. The latest comment was made by Fine Gael Minister of State Ciarán Cannon who yesterday said there would be no changes to the €325 cut in the respite carers’ grant.
Labour chairman Colm Keaveney, who has been an outspoken critic of the budget, issued a long statement yesterday that hinted he would support the Government in the budget and then lobby for changes to lessen the impact of some of the more controversial cuts and taxes.
Mr Keaveney, a TD for Galway East, said he hoped the Government would reconsider some of the measures in the light of widespread negative public reaction.
Ann Phelan, a Labour Deputy for Carlow-Kilkenny, also said she had been “rattled” by the budget and its harsher measures. “We are getting flak [in the constituency]. I am not very happy with child benefit.” While there would be no change she would like to see the changes in private pensions introduced earlier.
Joanna Tuffy of Dublin Mid West said she was unhappy but would vote with the Government. She also criticised Labour’s failure to push USC changes through.
Former Labour candidate and Progressive Democrat TD Mae Sexton has said she is “ashamed”to have stood for the party in the wake of what she said was a reprehensible budget. “They have sold their collective souls for the 40 pieces of silver and have demonstrated themselves to be without moral fibre,” the former TD from Longford has written in a letter to The Irish Times.
Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan said it was “a very difficult budget and a very difficult weekend” for Fine Gael TDs because of unpopular cuts including respite grants. However, he said he really did not see an alternative.
Joe McHugh, the Fine Gael TD who first raised concerns about respite care, conceded there would be no changes but said he would try to convince Ministers to protect services like respite care in future.