Attractive Scandinavian model becomes focus of attention


DÁIL SKETCH:A SCANDINAVIAN model became the focus of attention in the Dáil for a time yesterday.

The Government is attempting to emulate this exotic model by providing childcare facilities similar to Scandinavia, which have become the envy of Europe.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton first referred to the Scandinavian model in the Dáil recently. She very publicly warned her Cabinet colleagues that she would not proceed with reductions in childcare allowances for single parents, scheduled for 2014, unless the Scandinavian model walked down the governmental catwalk here.

Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming claimed yesterday that Burton was using the Scandinavian model to hide impending single-parent allowance cuts.

“What have all these financially vulnerable people done to the Labour Party,” asked Fleming.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, an admirer of the Scandinavian model, said the Government was sorting out the mess left by Fianna Fáil. Dismissing Fleming’s “sanctimonious claptrap”, he said the Soldiers of Destiny had left the country broke and the Coalition was trying to fix it.

Gilmore insisted that he wanted a system of safe, affordable and accessible childcare in place. Along the lines, no doubt, of the Scandinavian model.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald then reintroduced Stimulus to the proceedings. Sinn Féin wants the Government to ask Stimulus to provide a package to boost the economy. Apparently, the Scandinavian model and Stimulus know each other well, but they can only work in tandem if there is sufficient funding.

McDonald wondered why the Government had turned its face against Stimulus and that all important package. Had it been raised with the troika’s representatives? Gilmore, whose affection for Stimulus equals his admiration for the Scandinavian model, denied there had been any turning of face by the Government. This paved the way for a resumption of the referendum debate.

McDonald referred to the “austerity treaty” and argued that the Government could exercise a veto to ensure that no European fund mechanisms blocked Ireland.

She urged the Tánaiste to set the record straight. “Deputy McDonald has a hard neck to ask me to set the record straight,” said Gilmore. “Her party published a leaflet selectively quoting economists who support the treaty to give the impression they are opposing it.” Jumping to her feet, McDonald said she objected to Gilmore’s personal insult in his claim she was “twisted”. Gilmore said he was talking about the content of the leaflet and not referring to her.

Later, the Opposition rounded on the Government for guillotining the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill. The exchanges were prolonged and noisy.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, who missed a jobs’ announcement in his Dún Laoghaire constituency to preside over proceedings, was unimpressed. “For goodness sake, I ask deputies to listen to themselves for a minute,” he said. Little wonder, perhaps, that the Scandinavian model and Stimulus are taking so long to take up permanent residence here.