2033 The Dáil has adjourned for the evening. Live updates have now concluded.
2000 Fine Gael's Social Protection Spokesperson Michael Ring has slammed what he described as an outrageous Budget that attacked the most vulnerable.
Mr Ring criticised the decision to cut the allowance paid to carers. He said that carers were unusual in that they were the only people to work for their payments and they saved the State a lot of money by doing so.
He called on Minister Ó Cuív to reverse the cuts in benefits made to carers, widows, the blind and the disabled.
1937 In the Dáil debate on the Social Welfare bill, Minister Éamon Ó Cuív has revealed that disability benefits are being targeted for major reforms, with different levels of payment for different levels of disability.
1828 The Budget was 'appalling, shameful, beyond belief' said Independent TD Finian McGrath.
Mr McGrath said the cut in the minimum wage would not save the State a cent, nor would it create one job. He forecast that the budget would deflate the economy, sending it into a prolonged slump for up to ten years.
1815 Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport Mary Hanafin said there was no easy way to take €6bn out of the Budget and pointed out that increased money had gone into disability services and home-help services.
1810 Labour's Kathleen Lynch said that the Budget was the most unjust and unfair that she had ever seen in her political career.
1753 Labour TD Pat Rabbitte has rubbished welcomes from the Green Party that education had been protected in the Budget.
He said the Budget had done anything but protect the sector.
1,200 teachers had been removed from the system, he said.
Youthreach was cut and fees were introduced for PLCs.
Green Party Minister of State Mary White earlier welcomed the decision not to increase the pupil-teacher ratio in the Budget.
She said it would give a great head start to children for their futures.
Deputy Rabbitte also claimed that the IMF were of the belief that a €4.5bn cut would have been more appropriate than a 6bn euro cut.
He said the four-year plan was the creation of 'our new masters in Europe'.
1734 Fine Gael's Simon Coveney said that the Government seemed to think that change meant spending less or spending more.
He said that for them, political reform was about decreasing politician's salaries - not about restructuring the political system.
He said there was no justice or fairness in the way decisions regarding the exceptions to social welfare cutbacks in the Budget were made.
Deputy Coveney said the decision not to cut the State pension but to cut the allowances paid to carers, blind people, widows and the disabled was political.
He said Fine Gael had priced the protection of widows, carers, blind people and the disabled as costing around €96m - and Fine Gael had put alternatives in place to inflicting those cuts.
He said it was immoral to cut the child supports of a person on social welfare to the same extent that you cut a person's child supports who is on €250,000.
On the travel tax, he said it did not make sense to tax somebody for the privilege of coming to Ireland to spend their money when we were trying to encourage tourism.
1730 Minister of State Mary White has told the Dáil her party was pleased that there would be no cuts in the number of Special Needs Assistants, or in educational psychologists, following the Budget.
1630 The debate on the Social Welfare Bill is continuing this afternoon with some robust exchanges between the members of the Government and the Opposition.
1534 Fine Gael has urged Government backbenchers and Independent TDs to support amendments to the Social Welfare Bill that would reverse cuts to blind people, widows, carers and people with disabilities.
The party's spokesperson on Social Protection, Michael Ring, is to table the amendments this evening.
The Bill, which cuts welfare benefits apart from the State pension by an average of 4%, is due to be passed by the Dáil by tomorrow afternoon.
Mr Ring said there is 'only so much pain that people can take, and these cuts go too far'.
He called on TDs supporting the Government to 'vote with their conscience, ignore their political masters, and support the Fine Gael amendments'.
1450 The constituency office of Fianna Fáil TD Noel Treacy has been vandalised in Athenry in Galway. It is believed the door and two windows were smashed early this morning.
1336 Deputy Ó Caoláin said the minimum wage will drop by 12%, while the Taoiseach's salary is cut only by some 6%.
1332 He said the Budget would certainly see hospitals closed, adding that it would give thousands of doctors and nurses a one-way ticket out of the country.
1324 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said it was an anti-children Budget and will undoubtedly increase child poverty.
1322 Mr Ó Caoláin said the basis of the EU/IMF deal is the belief that taking €15bn out of the economy will bring us out of recession.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said by Brian Cowen's own admission, €15bn had already been taken out of the economy since 2008 and to what result.
He said the recession is not over, but it is continuing and deepening. He said the Government had no employment strategy.
Deputy Ó Caoláin said Brian Lenihan last December said the worst was over. In yesterday's Budget speech, Mr Lenihan spoke of clear signs of hope, he said.
His words are even less credible this year than those in 2009.
1321 Speaking in the Dáil, Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin began by saying that it was a disastrous budget.
He said it would result in more poverty, more unemployment and social misery being heaped on the people.
The wealthy are to escape yet again, he said.
1315 The Green Party leader said his party had to withstand massive pressure to protect the pupil/teacher ratio in the formulation of the Budget.
He said that while third-level fees had risen, they had done so by less than had been speculated, and the rise was confined to one person per family.
Minister Gormley said his party colleague, Paul Gogarty, could claim a good deal of credit for this.
He challenged the Opposition to say they would protect the pupil/teacher ratio, saying that the comments of Michael Noonan indicated that more teachers were for the chop.
On regeneration, he said it would continue as €172m had been provided for it, including the work on parts of Limerick and Ballymun.
1314 Mr Gormley asked the Opposition which of the cuts they would reverse, saying he honestly thought they would reverse very few of them.
He said there is cohesion to the Budget, which can build on Ireland's economic strengths, which are considerable.
1311 Mr Gormley said the Climate Change Bill will be published shortly.
1255 He said we cannot forget our continued obligation to the world's poorest people.
1253 Green Party leader John Gormley said the welfare cuts are a matter of regret to his party.
Overall, he said there was some small solace that welfare payments are still higher than in 2007. However, he added that welfare cuts had become inevitable.
On homelessness, he said his commitment was to reduce homelessness and it does still remain a priority.
1245 Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said that he reluctantly supported to the budget, despite what he described as the lack of credibility in the Government's projections for growth in its four-year plan.
He said that while everyone was happy to see that those on a State pension had not been targeted in the Budget, the cuts to those with disabilities made it clear that political calculations were at work.
1245 Fine Gael's Fidelma Healy-Eames said that every family in the country was about €3,000 worse off following yesterday's Budget.
Referring to the OECD report on the drop in Irish literacy standards, she said that there was nothing worse the country could face right now than a recession in our education system.
1244 Labour's Ivana Bacik said it was the most brutal Budget in the history of the State.
Describing the social welfare cuts as outrageous, Senator Bacik said it was important to recognise the need for a growth strategy and a stimulus package.
1243 Fine Gael's Frances Fitzgerald described yesterday's Budget as tough and stark.
Speaking in the Seanad, she said that the Budget hit the vulnerable, was very tough on families and did very little in terms of stimulus and job creation.
She said it was the culmination of the Government's failed policies.
1228 The Budget will not make the highest earners pay and the tax exiles had not paid a cent, Mr Gilmore said.
He said the Budget was written not in Ireland's interests, but in those of the IMF and the EU.
Mr Gilmore added that the blanket bank guarantee had undermined the credit worthiness of the Irish State.
1215 This Budget is based on a strategy that has already failed, according to Mr Gilmore.
‘It has been constructed more on injured pride than on logic and more on ideology than on commonsense,’ he said.
‘It is a budget based not on sound economics, but on bad politics and failed diplomacy.’
1213 Mr Gilmore said: ‘In times gone by, we used to talk about the old reliables being excise duties on beer and cigarettes.
‘Today, the old reliables are the tax breaks that Fianna Fáil continue to defend for the vested interests.’
1210 Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is next to speak.
He said Minister Lenihan managed to avoid announcing most of the bad news in his Budget speech, by occasionally referring to the details in the budget documentation.
Mr Gilmore said this was ‘a victory for tone over content’.
1159 Fine Gael’s only allegiance was to the people and it is not tied to big money and business, according to Mr Kenny.
He said Fianna Fáil had always cut frontline services.
Referring to the Greens, Mr Kenny said the Taoiseach's absent colleagues wanted him out of power.
He said the Government was flattened, out of breath and out of time.
Mr Kenny said middle and lower income families have been fleeced by Fianna Fáil and that the party had lied to the people.
He said FF turned the banking crisis into a national crisis and that if it was not for the Fianna Fáil banking policy, Ireland would not have had to be bailed out by the IMF.
1153 Mr Kenny said that many of the figures in the Budget are not backed up by policy.
He said many measures in the Budget would be announced at a later time, the document explained. He said this was not acceptable.
The Fine Gael leader said these included greater garda efficiencies of €20m. And departmental expenditure savings of millions also, but, he said, no details were given as to how these savings would be achieved.
Mr Kenny said there was no moral justification for cutting the vulnerable and with savings that could have been made up in other ways suggested by FG.
The Government had targetted the vulnerable instead of the powerful and wealthy, according to Mr Kenny, who added that Fine Gael's alternative plan would have also achieved the savings but would not have targetted the vulnerable.
Mr Kenny said the Budget contains no strategy for reform and growth.
1147 The Government proved in its Budget that it is ‘exhausted, jaded and has run out of ideas’, according to Mr Kenny.
1143 Mr Kenny says the that 'buried' in the Budget is a 'savage' cut of €8 a week for the carers, widows, blind and disabled.
1137 Taoiseach Brian Cowen finishes his speech to applause from his Fianna Fáil colleagues.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is next to speak.
1130 'We have a real economy that is forging ahead if we give it a chance,' says the Taoiseach.
There is a demand for our goods and services, he said, when we go in at the right price.
1127 The Taoiseach said most pre-Budget submissions from other parties were broadly in the same arena as the yesterday's Budget.
On the capital programme, he said we would be spending over €4bn next year.
The billions spent on infrastructure in the past will stand to the country. He said it had been right to spend this money.
Mr Cowen said his was a Government trying to address the issues in the right way.
He said Fine Gael does not have a policy that could stand up and that it was no good to talk of economic corpses.
The Taoiseach said if Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was supposed to be the good guy, then we are in trouble.
1119 Defending yesterday's cuts, Brian Cowen said Ireland's benefits were still among the best in the world.
Despite the economic tsunami that hit this country, he said, many of the social gains of previous years can be retained and many more can be regained in the coming years.
What is most important now is that we sustain a strong welfare system in the future, he said.
He said the Dáil needs to be seen to be prepared to take the tough decisions needed.
Brian Cowen said it is patent nonsense to suggest that spending doesn't have to be cut or taxes raised.
1116 In the Dáil, the Taoiseach said the Budgets since 2009 have been progressive.
Brian Cowen said a more competitive economy has to reduce its overheads.
Changes in the pension regime are mainly focused on the highest earners. He said everybody pays something, but the better-off pay the most.
Regarding tax, he said 38% of people will still be outside the tax net after this Budget.
The new minimum wage level will not be in the tax net, he said. And it will still be considered above the rate in the UK.
He said Labour's tax policy is closer to Sinn Féin than it is to Fine Gael.
The Taoiseach said a priority is to protect the most vulnerable in society, while those who can afford to carry the most do so.
The reduction in many social welfare payments is regrettable but necessary, he added.
1110 Brian Cowen has launched a strong attack on Fine Gael and Labour budgetary policies.
Amid much shouting in the Dáil Chamber, the Taoiseach said there was total incoherence in their policies and he said it was dishonest to suggest that €15bn in cuts could be achieved without cutting welfare or raising taxes.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny told the Taoiseach that Fine Gael policies would have eliminated the need for income tax increases.
He said the Budget contained 'booby traps and landmines' that would go off in people's homes over the next year.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore told the Taoiseach that he was presiding over a two-tier society in which social welfare recipients - such as widows, carers and the blind - were having their incomes cut for the second time in two years, while tax exiles were getting away with paying nothing.
The Taoiseach said all non-residents who have business in the State paid taxes whether they were resident here or not.
1106 The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that the Budget decisions were made to create growth as well as make savings. Next year he said the deficit target would be 9.4% of GDP.
He said we must adhere to the national recovery plan agreed with IMF and EU and that there was no alternative to the Budget.
1104 Minister Lenihan has finished his appearance on Today with Pat Kenny.
1100 A listener queries why the excise duty on petrol and diesel was increased, while cigarettes and alcohol remained untouched.
The minister says we have the highest excise duty on cigarettes in the European Union.
He said given that fact, we cannot give smokers any more incentive to purchase illegally imported and/or counterfeit goods.
Mr Lenihan said any increase on the duty on alcohol would cause an increased flow of custom across the Northern Ireland border, which will cost the country money.
1057 Taoiseach Brian Cowen responds angrily to criticism of Budget measures – accusing the Opposition of being incoherent in their policies – ‘you don’t have a policy position that adds up’.
1052 Asked why there was not a bigger cut to the overseas aid budget, Minister Lenihan says Ireland is still a wealthy country and those who benefit from that aid are far, far worse off than we are now, or have been in recent years.
1050 In the Dáil, Eamon Gilmore wants to know why there is ‘no mention at all’ of tax exiles in this Budget - while welfare recipients have seen a second year of cuts.
1041 Minister Lenihan says capping banking salaries at €250,000 would limit the ability to attract the best executives to the jobs.
1033 Leaders' Questions is beginning in the Dáil.
1031 Mr Lenihan denies a listener's claim that we are paying for his green fees. The minister, it seems, 'does not play golf'. He says he has spent most of the last two-and-a-half years working day and night in his department.
1028 Speaking about politicians' salaries, Mr Lenihan says ministers are earning €52,000 less than they did in 2008.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen's pay has fallen from €174,000 to €102,000.
TDs' salaries have declined from €69,000 to €51,000 in the same three-year period.
1023 The cost of living has returned to 2007 levels, according to the minister.
1018 Answering a question about the decision to cut the Carers' Allowance, Minister Lenihan says it was very difficut to exempt any area of the welfare system from the necessary cuts.
1014 Allowing a bank default at Anglo Irish Bank would not have helped Ireland's cause.
Mr Lenihan argues that this country does not have a history of such defaults, and it is not feasible for us to to do.
He said the 'endless debate' about a default is eroding investors' confidence.
1013 Shareholders and bondholders have already shared the burden of the banking crisis pain, according to Mr Lenihan.
1010 The minister argues that Stamp Duty was hindering any movement on the housing market.
1008 Mr Lenihan said he could not see the point of touching the 'old reliables' of cigarettes and alcohol.
1005 Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is on Today with Pat Kenny answering questions from listeners.
1004 The day after the Government announced Budget 2011, Taoiseach Brian Cowen will be answering Leaders' Questions in the Dáil from 10.30am.