TANAISTE and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has defended a range of cuts in Budget 2014 including changes to medical cards, a reduction in youth dole and the abolition of the death grant.
More than 155,000 people are at risk of losing their full medical cards amid warnings that 2014 could be the toughest yet for the health sector.
Mr Gilmore told RTE’s Morning Ireland that he stood over the budget.
“It takes us out of the bailout and promotes employment,” he said.
“We now have one of most progressive tax systems - top 1pc of earners pay almost 20pc of tax.”
He also denied that changes to the social welfare system which mean that new dole entrants under 26 will be subjected to lower payments of €100 a week constituted a cut.
“It’s not cutting benefits. There’s €740m for education and training in this budget. This Government thinks that young people should be at work.”
Mr Gilmore also said introducing the free GP card for children under five was the start of free universal healthcare for all but did not give any more details.
He also said that following the abolition of the €850 death grant, there were still a range of other options open when a loved one passes away.
Mr Gilmore added that this budget will be the last difficult one.
“This is the last of the difficult budgets...it achieves about 95pc of targets.
“It gets us closer to the 3pc budget deficit target in 2015 and a primary surplus.”