Angry exchanges in Dáil over Budget 2014

Wednesday 16 October 2013 23.09
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Mary Lou McDonald said some employment schemes were 'half-baked'
Mary Lou McDonald said some employment schemes were 'half-baked'
Micheál Martin accused the Government of a 'big lie'
Micheál Martin accused the Government of a 'big lie'
Enda Kenny dismissed criticism from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil
Enda Kenny dismissed criticism from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil
Stephen Donnelly said reducing the dole for 25-year-olds is a human rights issue
Stephen Donnelly said reducing the dole for 25-year-olds is a human rights issue
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he did not accept that those less well-off were bearing the brunt of the hardship
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he did not accept that those less well-off were bearing the brunt of the hardship
Ministers Noonan and Howlin gave their Budget statements in the Dáil yesterday
Ministers Noonan and Howlin gave their Budget statements in the Dáil yesterday

There have been clashes in the Dáil over the Budget provisions, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny dismissing comments by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as "opportunistic blather".

Mr Martin accused the Government of perpetrating the "big lie" by claiming that older people had not been affected by the Budget measures.

He said the Budget had targeted the most vulnerable in society.

However, the Taoiseach insisted that the State pension, free travel, free TV licence and the incomes of pensioners have not been reduced in the Budget.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised some youth employment schemes, claiming they were "Mickey Mouse and half-baked".

She asked if the Government had a forced emigration policy for young people, and accused the Government of massaging the jobless figures with employment schemes.

Mr Kenny said she was insulting the intelligence of Ireland’s young people. He said the Government had created 34,000 jobs for them.

Independent TD Stephen Donnelly said reducing the dole for 25-year-olds was a human rights issue, claiming it discriminated on age grounds.

However, the Taoiseach told the Dáil many social welfare regulations and entitlements are determined by age.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins accused Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton of standing "in the same gallery of political rogues as the children's milk snatcher Margaret Thatcher".

In his Budget statement in the Dáil, he criticised Ms Burton over cuts in the maternity allowance, the telephone allowance and job seeker’s benefit.

Earlier, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan acknowledged that the Budget was "difficult".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Mr Noonan said he was confident the Government would come in on target for 2% growth next year, the basis on which many of the Budget's calculations are made.

Mr Noonan said he was not concerned by comments made by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who appeared to reiterate German opposition to using the European Solidarity Mechanism fund to directly recapitalise Irish banks.

Mr Schaeuble said that retroactive bank recapitalisation was "not probable for the time being".

"I actually thought he kept the door open," Mr Noonan said.

Speaking on the same programme, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said that some of the €660m in savings earmarked for the health budget next year would be offset by an injection of €187m into health under other measures.

Asked about the reduction in Jobseeker's Allowance to under 25s, he said that those who opt to go into education and training programmes will hold onto a higher rate of payments.

Gilmore happy with Budget

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was happy to stand over the Budget measures as leader of the Labour party.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Gilmore said the measures would take Ireland out of the EU/IMF bailout and lead to job creation.

The Tánaiste said he did not accept that those less well-off were bearing the brunt of the hardship.

Speaking on the same programme, Ms McDonald said this was an opportunity for the Government to give something back to struggling households and families.

The Dáil passed seven resolutions last night relating to the Budget, including those giving rise to the excise duty increases on tobacco and alcohol.

From midnight, a pint of beer, cider and a standard measure of spirits went up by 10 cent, a bottle of wine increased by 50 cent and a packet of 20 cigarettes went up by 10 cent.

During a debate on a health related resolution, former junior minister Róisín Shortall said the health service will be in free fall by the middle of next year due to the number of pressures on the service and lack of reform.

On the issue of restricting tax relief on medical insurance premiums, she questioned whether anyone in the Government really knew what was happening in the department.

Former Fine Gael minister of state Lucinda Creighton said the specific measure will disproportionately hit people on the fringes.

But she abstained in the vote, adding that she will not be voting against the Government in any of the Budget measures.

Mr Martin said thousands of people had left health insurance in their droves and the measure would exacerbate this.

Minister for Jobs and Enterprise Richard Bruton said the measure was reasonable and equitable.

He said the Government is curtailing relief that is available to the upper packages.

ICTU warns of up to 30,000 job losses

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has warned that the provisions in the 2014 Budget could cost the economy between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs.

The Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute, which advises Congress on its economic policy, said that as a rule of thumb, taking €1bn out of an economy would result in up to 8,000 job losses.

Dr Tom Healy told a post-budget briefing that if the adjustment in Budget 2014 were €2.5bn, the job losses could top 30,000.

He acknowledged that there may still be job creation in the economy, but that it would not be as strong as would have been the case if no adjustment had taken place.

He also noted that elements of the health budget appeared to have been parked for a decision at a later date - adding that this was not entirely reassuring in light of overruns in the department.

Dr Healy challenged the Government to produce research evidence that cutting benefits for young people would create jobs and would not worsen poverty among those groups.

Elsewhere, Fr Sean Healy director of the independent think-tank, Social Justice Ireland, accused the Government of basing its Budget on very questionable figures.

However, the Department of Finance said additional savings of €600m would be found through debt servicing, unemployment payments and dividends from state-sponsored bodies.

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