Rabbitte strongly defends Budget
Minister for Communication Pat Rabbitte has staunchly defended the measures taken in the Budget during sharp and heated exchanges in the Dáil.
He said the Government had preserved core social welfare rates, created 10,000 jobs and restored home help. It had maintained child benefit as a universal payment and protected lower and middle income families from tax abuse.
But Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman Dara Calleary said many of those people who voted for Labour in 2011 were rueing their decision today.
He said they voted on the basis of a series of promises and “clearly you and your colleagues in Government have forgotten about those promises”.
The Mayo TD read out from a series of advertisements, promises made by Labour in the general election including pledges to protect child benefit.
But Mr Rabbitte said “we are confronted with the mess that you left”. He referred to a Fianna Fáil flyer opposing the property tax. Accusing the party of hypocrisy he said the property tax had originally been negotiated by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, as a government minister.
Mr Rabbitte then accused Fianna Fáil of being like a leopard never changing its spots. He claimed the party had so many spots it had measles, as he accused the party of a U-turn on property charges.
During heated exchanges Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Minister of trying to “worm his way out of” dealing with the €325 cut in respite care and said the Government had to reverse the cut.
“You know this cut is wrong...you can’t stand on your feet and talk about protecting the vulnerable and then launch an attack on carers,” she said. These were people who cared for other people, many of them with profound disabilities. “Do you get that Pat Rabbitte? Do you actually get that?”
She said Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton had told parents on the back to school allowance to shop around and asked Mr Rabbitte “are you now telling carers to shop around? Are you actually that cheap? Are you actually that glib?”
She said the respite care cut was wrong. “It’s indefensible. It’s not just unfair, it’s indecent.”
Ms McDonald said if the Government did not voluntarily reverse the cut it would be forced to do so and she called on the Minister to “do the decent thing”.
Mr Rabbitte described the cut as “modest” and said it was the Government’s objective to ensure the caring profession was protected. They were confronted with the choice of protecting the carer’s allowance, the half carer’s allowance and dealing with a modest cut in the respite allowance.
The people who did the caring would get exactly the same allowance as before the Budget as would those claiming the half carer’s allowance, he said.
Mr Rabbitte said the Government had to bring in a Budget that was workable. He said 40per cent of current spending went towards the social welfare budget. “It is not possible to make the savings that we are mandatorily required to make and not impact on social welfare. The question was how to do it best.”
He insisted that “we have gone out of our way to ensure that those who can pay most have done so in this budget and those who need to be protected are protected”.
Independent TD Thomas Pringle accused the Labour Party of not protecting the vulnerable and hit out at the abolition of the €254 PRSI allowance. But Mr Rabbitte said “we have to deal with the world as we find it not as we would like it”.
He said there was “only one lender prepared to give us the money and they’re establishing certain conditions with which we have to comply”.