Budget debates

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Equal societies did better

Thomas Pringle (ind, Donegal SW) drew attention to the way in which the minister had tried to ‘shorten winter’ by cutting six weeks for the fuel allowance.  Each year, almost 2,000 older people died from winter-related illness and 70% came from the lower socio-economic groups.  He had received calls from older people who had told him that they would be turning off their heating because they could not afford it.  Internationally, the more equal societies were weathering the crisis better than the more unequal.  Ireland was one of the most unequal and the budget would increase that inequality further.  


Clare Daly (SP, Dublin N) spoke of the letters she had received from Barnardos, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Social Justice Ireland and others, ‘hardly the most racial campaigners or mad lunatics’ begging and pleading for the government to call a halt to this butchery.  The government had used the phrase ‘protecting the most vulnerable’, but it was code for kicking the living daylights out of those at the bottom of society.  It would be hard-pressed to find a single vulnerable person or group the government had not targeted.  It was lunacy to say that welfare rates in Ireland were too high, for we spent only 18% of GDP on social welfare, compared to 27% in the rest of Europe.  The Central Statistics Office had told us that 14% of people in local authority houses could not heat their homes: ‘What is the solution?  It is to cut their fuel allowances even further’. To save €51m, a decision was taken that will cause extreme hardship and cost lives.