Monday 22 January 2018

Taoiseach dismisses Opposition attack on budget as 'hypocritical'

Lyndsey Telford

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has shot down a three-pronged attack on the Government over savage cuts in the budget as opportunistic and hypocritical.

Mr Kenny launched the offensive after a slew of assaults from the Opposition accused Labour of neglecting its policies and grassroots to prop up Fine Gael.

"Your attack on Labour is utterly hypocritical and opportunistic," he said.

The Taoiseach said Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin had bowed to pressure from opposition benches to pick a fight with Labour over controversial budget cuts.

"This budget is not about the Fine Gael party and is not about the Labour Party. It's about Ireland and its people," the Taoiseach said.

"It's about this Government having the conviction and the courage to clean up the most inordinate mess left behind by the most incompetent, out of touch and arrogant government in the last 50 years in the country."

Mr Martin has claimed he was personally approached by Labour TDs dissatisfied about the 3.5 billion euro (£2.8 billion) austerity budget - particularly the controversial slashing of the respite care grant from 1,700 to 1,375 euro (£1,110) a year.

"I believe they are saying around the house, even last week before they went home for the weekend, that this was a disaster for them," Mr Martin said.

As the United Left Alliance (ULA) called for a mass demonstration and Sinn Fein unveiled plans to table a motion of no confidence in the Government, Mr Martin announced his party would force Dail votes on all cuts it deemed unfair.

That would force TDs to literally walk across the Dail chamber to cast their vote.

Mr Martin said it would be a real test for those grappling with their conscience.

"Voicing sympathy is not enough," Mr Martin said.

"The vote is what will bring these measures either into operation or enable these measures to fall and force the Government to go back to the drawing board."

Meanwhile, the ULA has rallied protesters to demonstrate at Leinster House, at 5.30pm tomorrow - before Dail debates on the Social Welfare Bill are complete.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett also urged dissatisfied Labour TDs to rise up against Fine Gael and challenge the austerity measures, which he described as anti-family, anti-children, anti-women and anti-the poor.

ULA supporters, low to middle income workers, people on benefits, carers and the disabled are expected at the picket calling for a reverse to the cuts, which also include a slash in child benefit of 10 euro (£8) per youngster and reductions to the back-to-school allowance.

The ULA appealed to Labour TDs to jump ship and stay true to their 2011 pre-election promises, which included a pledge to leave child benefits untouched.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said the Government had no mandate to make the cuts announced last week.

"You weren't sent in here to take money from carers, you weren't sent in here to impose a tax on the family home or take money off children and parents who need it," Mr Adams said.

"You weren't sent in here to do any of those things, so don't do it."

Cuts to allowances will be enforced when the Social Welfare Bill passes through the Dail, expected on Thursday.

Last year cuts to Deis schools and disabled allowances were reversed. The Taoiseach and Government ministers have insisted there will be no row-backs on the budget this time round, insisting it is final.

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