PUBLIC Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin was last night dubbed "an equal opportunities butcher" as Independent TDs complained about social welfare cuts.
The 16 of the 19 Independent and United Left Alliance TDs in the technical group chose three speakers to voice their objections to Mr Howlin's spending cuts.
Dublin North TD Claire Daly criticised the €88 per week cut for young people aged 18 to 21 on disability allowance -- which brings them in line with the similar cut last year for able-bodied people on jobseekers' payments.
"We now know the minister, Deputy Howlin, is an equal opportunities butcher," she said.
Ms Daly complained that cutbacks to the health budget could not possibly improve a service that was already pared to the bone.
Independent Kildare North TD Catherine Murphy criticised the €250 hike in the registration fees, the cut in school capitation grants, and the reduction of postgraduate grants.
Ms Murphy also said that the threadbare services in disability, mental health and children's services were being cut by 2pc to save €50m.
"Those services are already down to the bone and a reduction of €50m will make an enormous difference to people delivering those services," she said.
Independent Wicklow TD Stephen Donnelly quoted Finance Minister Michael Noonan's verdict on last year's Budget that "one cannot cut and tax one's way out of a recession".
Mr Donnelly said that was right then "and it is right now", as he called on the Government to return with radical new proposals.