independent

Friday 18 April 2014

Social welfare won't be cut, says Gilmore

Governor of California Jerry Brown listens as Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore speaks at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has insisted that social welfare rates will have to be left untouched to provide a "safety net" for people who lose their jobs – in response to Fine Gael demands for social welfare cuts.

His party is locked in a battle with Fine Gael to reduce the planned €440m social welfare cuts in the Budget, with Fine Gael insisting any extra funds must be used for job-creation projects instead.

He was speaking after a 40-minute meeting with the famous California governor Jerry Brown, who imposed cuts on payments to the blind, the disabled and the elderly to eliminate the state's $27bn (€21bn) deficit.

Mr Gilmore said the strategy pursued to cut budget deficits depended on the location and the country.

"We made a decision as a Government that we would maintain core rates of social welfare payments. We believe it's important that there is a floor, a safety net for people who fall on hard times, who lose their jobs as many people have over the course of the recession," he said.

GOVERNOR

Mr Brown was first elected governor of California in the 1970s and 1980s – but then made a comeback to take office again in 2011 after the reign of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

He said that he had not wanted to cut pensions in California, but that he had to take action.

"We had a $27bn deficit on a $90bn (€69bn) general fund budget, so we had to so something. We did cuts and we did taxes, and the people overwhelmingly voted for those," he said.

Mr Brown also said that other EU countries could learn a real lesson from Ireland in relation to its budget strategy over recent years.

"I would just say that Ireland is well known around the world as a country that has taken the bull by the horns and brought its budget into much closer alignment," he said.

Mr Brown is here with his wife Anne Gust and his sister Kathleen to celebrate his Irish roots during the year of The Gathering. He said his great-grandfather Joseph Brown was born in a "mud hut" in Tipperary.

"He got to California and had two governors in his family, my father and I. I think that indicates a certain amount of Irish willpower and imagination and so I've come back to understand it in a more direct way myself," he said.

Irish Independent

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