Budget debates

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11,000 food parcels: deputies, senators highlight poverty impact

The 2012 budget was presented to and approved by the Dail on 6th December (Dail Eireann, Debates, 6th December 2011, 854-957; 7th December, 19-110; 8th December, 250-323; 9th December 2011, 393-460).  Maureen O’Sullivan (ind, Dublin C) told the Dail that she had approached the budget with an open mind and many of its principles were those with which she could agree, but it was a different story when we got to the small print.  It was hard to match its principles with the obligation to pay the bondholders while cuts were imposed that hurt the poor and vulnerable. The Capuchin day centre used to give out 400 food parcels a morning two or three years ago: now it was 11,000.  The day before, she had been to a lunch for senior citizens: they were prepared to take their cut, but the fuel allowance was a serious matter, they feared they would not have enough and this was causing many problems for them.  She would have voted for more taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, especially to address the problems of cheap alcohol.


John Halligan (ind, Waterford) believed that the budget would be remembered as an attack on little people, such as low and middle income families, lone parents, the disabled, the elderly and small business owners and would leave a legacy of fuel poverty.  The vulnerable were taking the pain for the greed of the ruling classes.  He asked the government not to blame it on the EU or the IMF, for they did not to tell the government to cut child benefit or reduce fuel allowances.  Reducing by 2% the funding for higher education was even contrary to IMF policy which stated that investment there helped recovery.  He noted that Social Justice Ireland, a respected and highly regarded organization, had not even been given the courtesy of a response by the minister: no wonder, considering the statistics on poverty it presented.  Ireland was the 7th wealthiest country in the EU, with the second highest proportion of millionaires, its 300 richest people with €50bn.  The government had waged war on the most vulnerable, who could not fight back.  He had addressed many meetings in his constituency and the tolerance level of people was wearing thin.  The man working all week did not even have €10 left over at the end of the week, while the Waterford Glass worker had to wait six months for social welfare and a year for redundancy and suffered a pension cut.  The trade unions would not march for these people – or anybody- and the church was promoting a mythical shangri-la of the next life.  The day would come when people unjustly treated would not need the trade union movement or the churches or the political parties and would rise up to vent their anger.  A country is not judged on its wealth, historic sites or beautiful scenic places, but its quality of life and Ireland was not now a good country in which to live.