Power Speaks on Social Welfare Bill in the Seanad (18/12/12)

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There is no doubt that the Government needs to close the gap between income and expenditure and I do not believe anybody in this House disagrees with that assertion.  However, as Senator Marc MacSharry said, the Minister does have choices.  The choices made in the Social Welfare Bill are wrong.  It is wrong to target low income families for cuts.  It is wrong to abolish the back to education allowance for persons who are unemployed and trying to get an education in order that they can find a job.  It is downright cruel to target carers for cuts in the respite care grant.

 

This House has a very important job to do this week.  I wish that Members would focus on the Bill.  If Senator Denis Landy takes comfort from shouting at the Opposition side and making political points and if that makes him feel better about the e-mails from parents of autistic children who e-mailed every Member over the weekend asking us to do the right thing in conscience, that is fine.  Personally, I am here to do a job and we have a serious job to do.  All that we, on this side of the House, are asking is that the Government takes pause.  Nobody is asking anybody to destabilise the coalition, as some Members suggested.  All we are saying is that the choices made in the Bill are wrong and that we have an opportunity to force the Dáil to look at it again and come up with fairer choices.

 

The bottom line will still be the same, with which I have no issue.  It will still be that the same overall level of cuts must be achieved, but they can be fairer.  Alternatives have been mentioned such as an increase in the universal social charge.  I know they appeal to Members on the other side of the House and that, in all honesty, if they think about them, they know they are right.  I just hope that at least two or three Members on the Government side will have the courage and decency to do the right thing.

 

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