Angry exchanges in Dáil over Budget 2014
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, Finance Minister 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 Shauble, who appeared to reiterate German opposition to using the European Solidarity Mechanism fund to directly recapitalise Irish banks.
Mr Shauble 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, Public Expenditure Minister 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 the health vote under other measures.
Asked about the reduction in jobseekers 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
Earlier, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he is happy to stand over the Budget measures as leader of the Labour party.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Gilmore said 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.