NONE of the Government's Budget choices was easy.
But the reduction in the annual respite care grant from €1,700 to €1,375 for each person receiving care is indefensible.
The grant is typically used by carers to take a much-needed break from their round-the-clock duties of looking after incapacitated family members.
The €300 planned annual cut for each carer defies political and economic logic.
The social and economic burden borne by carers is priceless, compared with the limitless cost to the State if those citizens had to be cared for in hospital beds or nursing homes.
In that context, the planned cut is not just regrettable, it is derisive.
No citizen, even our most vulnerable ones, can escape the impact of the latest €3.5bn glut of new taxes and spending cuts. But some Budget measures cross the Rubicon.
Thirty years ago, a previous Fine Gael-Labour coalition collapsed after just seven months when a controversial Budget, which included plans to levy VAT on children's shoes, was defeated.
The respite care grant cuts, if not reversed, could prove as potentially fatal – on a single issue or cumulative basis – to this Fine Gael-Labour coalition.
Successive governments have been remarkably, some might say astonishingly fortunate, that there has not been widespread upheaval, or worse, after six straight austerity Budgets.
In the absence of a macro deal on the national debt, heel-dragging on reforms to our personal insolvency laws and other issues, that hard-fought-for social solidarity cannot be guaranteed.