Labour face three-way attack as opposition ramps up Budget pressure
Published 11/12/2012 | 14:30
OPPOSITION TDs have launched a three-way assault on the Government as part of demands to reverse savage cuts in the budget.
And Labour Party members have been targeted in the attacks amid accusations they have neglected their policies and people while propping up their senior coalition partner Fine Gael.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he had personally heard of disgruntled Labour TDs voicing their dissatisfaction about the austere measures.
"I believe they are saying around the house, even last week before they went home for the weekend, that this was a disaster for them," Mr Martin said.
He said questions also needed to be answered as to why the Government was ramming through the legislation required to enable the budget measures.
The party leader said there had been extreme haste and hurry to get the debates and votes over with - the Social Welfare Bill, for example, is expected to be wrapped up by Thursday.
As the United Left Alliance (ULA) called for a mass demonstration and Sinn Fein unveiled plans to table a motion of no confidence in the Government, Mr Martin announced his party would force Dail votes on all unfair cuts.
This would see TDs literally having to walk across the Dail chamber to cast their vote - for or against the cuts. This, Mr Martin said, would be a real test for those already grappling with their conscience.
"Labour backbenchers will have opportunities to vote against these measures, line by line in the Social Welfare Bill," Mr Martin said.
"We will be forcing a vote on every one of those items this week."
The Fianna Fail leader said he had heard from numerous Labour backbenchers unhappy with cuts announced in last week's 3.5 billion euro (£2.8 billion) budget - particularly regarding the controversial slashing of the respite care grant from 1,700 to 1,375 euro (£1,110) a year.
"Voicing sympathy is not enough," Mr Martin said.
"The vote is what will bring these measures either into operation or enable these measures to fall and force the Government to go back to the drawing board."
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett and other members of the ULA have rallied protesters to demonstrate at Leinster House, at 5.30pm tomorrow - ahead of the Government holding its final vote to pass its Social Welfare Bill.
Mr Barrett urged disgruntled Labour TDs to pull back their support from Fine Gael and challenge the austerity measures, which he described as anti-family, anti-children, anti-women and anti-the poor.
ULA supporters, low to middle income workers, people on benefits, carers and the disabled are expected at the picket calling for a reverse to the cuts, which also include a slash in child benefit of 10 euro (£8) per youngster.
The ULA appealed to Labour TDs to jump ship and stay true to their 2011 pre-election promises, which included a pledge to leave child benefits untouched.
Independent TD John Halligan accused Social Protection Minister Joan Burton of being disingenuous in her claims that she had no choice but to impose the most controversial cuts in areas within her own department.
He said there were numerous alternatives, such as cutting politicians' allowances further.
"We would appeal to the Labour Party, cross over with us now and stand your ground on this," he said.
Elsewhere, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the Government had no mandate to make the cuts announced last week.
He said both Fine Gael and Labour were voted to power on the basis they would protect the vulnerable and less well off.
The austerity budget was a contradiction of their promises to the people, he said.
"You weren't sent in here to take money from carers, you weren't sent in here to impose a tax on the family home or take money off children and parents who need it," Mr Adams said.
"You weren't sent in here to do any of those things, so don't do it."
TDs will debate the Social Welfare Bill this week in the Dail and it is expected to pass on Thursday.
The Taoiseach and Government ministers have shot down suggestions they might row back on some of the adjustments announced in the budget.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn last year reversed cuts to Deis schools following intense pressure from opposition and protesters. He also apologised for the proposals.
Despite that, the Government has remained steadfast and insisted the budget is final.