Thursday 23 November 2017

Keaveney is Labour's main problem as he attacks welfare cuts

Michael Brennan and Fiach Kelly

LABOUR party chairman Colm Keaveney has emerged as the biggest problem for the party leadership after he attacked social welfare cuts in the Budget.

Although he voted last night with the Government to increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, he is lobbying for a reversal of the €10 cut in child benefit and other social welfare cutbacks before they are brought to a vote.

He is also producing his own document to explain his dissatisfaction with the cutbacks.

Mr Keaveney said he would not comment on whether he would support the social welfare cutbacks when they are voted on next month.

"It is wrong to speculate or impose a threat about what will happen in January. I am getting in contact with all ministers to see if we can make any changes ahead of the vote," he said.

But this led to a heated discussion with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who was seen giving a strong dressing-down to Mr Keaveney in the Dail chamber between votes.

There are also doubts about the position of Labour Clare TD Michael McNamara, who complained that there should have been higher taxes on big pensions for bankers. He did not say what he would do in relation to the Budget votes over the coming days.

"As long as I feel I can contribute constructively in the party, I'll stay in," he said.

But most other Labour TDs are on board, with one saying there were lumps in the Budget soup – but they were small enough to swallow rather than choke on. Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan said none of the party backbenchers were overjoyed with the tough Budget but believed it was as fair as possible.

"There's nobody gaining here, everybody is losing, but ultimately we hope the country will be gaining in the long run. We just see it as something that has to be done," he said.

Dublin Mid West TD Robert Dowds said these measures were specifically designed to take money from those who could afford to pay more.

Labour Dublin South East TD Kevin Humphreys said the fact that the basic social welfare rates were maintained was a major achievement "and certainly wouldn't have happened if we weren't in Government".

Fine Gael backbenchers were giving a cautious welcome to the Budget, although there is concern about the property tax and some worry about PRSI changes.

The Taoiseach briefed TDs between Dail votes last night, but most felt the Budget held few surprises, even though there was strong anxiety about the property tax.

Irish Independent

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