Gilmore silent on benefit cut after election promise
Labour leader gave election promise not to touch allowance
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has remained silent on child benefit cuts -- despite personally promising he would prevent Fine Gael from imposing them during the general election campaign.
His party even ran advertisements warning that families with two children would be hit with a €252 per year child benefit cut by Fine Gael.
It was seen as a key factor in boosting Labour's support in the run-up to polling day.
But his Labour colleague Joan Burton confirmed yesterday that she was now battling with her cabinet colleagues to avoid a €10 cut in child benefit in the Budget.
During the general election campaign, Mr Gilmore pledged several times to protect child benefit.
He told a group of mothers and children in the St Nicholas of Myra parish centre in Dublin's south inner city that his party would look after families.
"[Things] like not cutting child benefit any further. Enough is enough. Families can take no more," he said at the time.
But a spokeswoman for Mr Gilmore said last night that he was not going to comment on "speculation" about child benefit cuts.
Ms Burton, the Social Protection Minister, confirmed that the cut was "up for discussion" but said she was suggesting alternatives to make savings.
"I have always valued the importance of child benefit to families, to parents, and I'm having those discussions with my colleagues," she said.
The Cabinet is to meet three times this week to prepare for the Budget -- today, tomorrow and Thursday -- with the issue of child benefit cuts to be the subject of heated discussions between Fine Gael and Labour ministers.
There was strong opposition to child benefit cuts among many Labour backbenchers yesterday, with Labour's Kevin Humphreys saying he had made his views "extremely clear" to the party.
"I'm aware that there doesn't seem to be a problem in protecting child benefit from the Fine Gael group but certainly as a backbench member of the Labour party, I feel very strongly that this benefit has to be protected," he said.
Some Labour backbenchers including Dublin Mid West TD Joanna Tuffy and Cork South Central TD Ciaran Lynch are hoping for means testing or taxing child benefit, in favour of an across-the-board cut.
But according to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, there are logistical issues involved in carrying out a detailed means test on families.
Ms Burton said the expert group she had set up to examine these issue wouldn't report until three months after the Budget.
Around 1.1 million children are receiving child benefit and a €10 cut in their €140 monthly payments would save around €110m.
Children's charity Barnardos warned yesterday that a third budget cut in a row to child benefit would worsen the situation of 90,000 children living in poverty.