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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy] Seventy percent of unemployed people would prefer to be working. They need our support to get back to work. I have been informed by experienced departmental officials based around the country that, at a conservative estimate, 10% of the departmental budget is affected by fraudulent claims. The Minister has targeted a reduction in fraud. The Minister should use the Croke Park agreement to redeploy public service staff to each social welfare office to support the good work of the Department's fraud officials. She needs to be woman enough to impose strict penalties for blatantly fraudulent social welfare claims. A more rigorous assessment system would obviate the need for such brutal cuts.

This morning the Taoiseach sought to justify these callous cuts by reminding the House that the previous Government cut the blind pension. I acknowledge that was wrong. However, what this Government is doing now is morally wrong. What happened to the Labour Party's red line issue of the cuts in child benefit? On 10 December 2010, the Minister stated that child benefit had succeeded in lifting children out of poverty because there was no means test. Barnardos has described this budget as regressive, unfair, unsustainable and disproportionately targeted. What happened to the Labour Party standing up for the less well-off in society? The people who earn a couple of hundred thousand euro and who have a couple of children get the same as people with a couple of children who earn €10,000.

What about the carers? They are the only section of society who earn the money they are paid. They earn it because they have to undergo a rigorous assessment. Under the Minister's watch they wait eight months for payment. They must prove that they provide full-time care. They are saving this State €4 billion annually - a conservative figure. They are keeping people out of long-term care in nursing homes. They do it not for the €200 a week they receive, which we introduced, nor for the respite care grant, which we also introduced, but for love of the person for whom they care. Where is the Labour Party support for those people?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall The Deputy should conclude as he is well over time.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Politics is about choices. There are alternatives. The choices we make say a lot about us as a society. Let us decide that we wish to protect the most vulnerable members of society. The Government should go after the people who are fraudulently claiming social welfare. It should increase taxation for those who can afford to pay it and cut child benefit for the people who do not wish to take it. Very wealthy individuals have said they do not need child benefit payments. The Government should cut it for those people but it should protect the people it is supposed to represent in this House.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I wish to share my time with Deputy Dara Murphy. I will allow him to speak first.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy I know that speaking time is very limited. The previous speakers referred to choices. I compliment the Minister on her bravery and integrity for playing her part in bringing this economy and this country back to a point where we will balance our budget. There has been much talk from a Fianna Fáil Party that is licking its lips about our children who are the next generation. No one in this country or in this House should be in any doubt that the future of our country and of our children in particular is the motivation of this Government.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Government should just keep its promises.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall No interruptions, please, Deputy Troy.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy Fianna Fáil was in government for 14 years. It had the option and the opportunity to make choices but it made none. Not one difficult choice was made and the people are now paying the price. I have no doubt that if Fianna Fáil was still in government, the people of Greece would look over to Ireland and say, "At least we are not as bad as the Fianna Fáil-led Ireland". Fianna Fáil is a bankrupt party, bankrupt of ideas. The one fact that unites Fine Gael and Labour Party backbenchers, that drives us back together and that will drive this Government forward-----

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Holding on to the reins of power.

Deputy Dara Murphy: Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy -----is the certain knowledge that this country must be protected from Fianna Fáil's incompetence and from the way it has driven the country to this point. We will not be diverted, diluted or discouraged by Fianna Fáil. Its members have the neck to come into this Parliament and speak as if they had no blood on their hands for the state of the country. They are a disgrace. I cannot imagine they can look at themselves in the mirror.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Deputy Buttimer has 18 minutes in his time slot.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer I congratulate the Minister on the publication of the Social Welfare Bill, for the provision of 10,000 new places on employment programmes and for the maintenance of core social welfare benefits for those who need them. This Government will spend €22 billion on social protection. It went to Europe to achieve an increase in the expenditure ceiling. The hypocrisy of the Members opposite astonishes me. For 14 years, they bankrupted our country. They led our people a merry dance and they stole the dreams and the hopes of a generation. It once again falls to a Fine Gael-Labour Party Government to rescue the country. They have some audacity-----

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I hope ye do a better job than ye did in 1982 to 1987.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall Zoom on Jack Wall Please address the Chair, Deputy Troy.

Deputy Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer Zoom on Jerry Buttimer -----to speak after what they have done. I hope their callous attitude to the Irish people will never be forgotten. The party opposite fiddled and bankrupted the country. Now, they prey on the fears of vulnerable people in a mockeyah way. Shame on them. This budget is difficult and it will, unfortunately, affect every household and every citizen. None of us on this side of the House wants a budget that has to take €3.1 billion out of the economy and which results in people losing money. However, this nation is borrowing €42 million per day in order to run the country, to fund public services. I remind the Members opposite that we are in an EU-IMF programme. It was the former Government which went to Brussels to get that bailout because we could not access money to run the country. The gentlemen opposite may have forgotten that. I wonder what world the Leader of the Opposition lives in when I hear his complaints on the Order of Business. He was the man who sat in Cabinet and who acquiesced in decisions. He was the man who cut pensions for the old, the blind and the disabled, by €16.50 per week, when he was a member of the Cabinet. Not one Member opposite voted against those cuts. They come in today, tonight and tomorrow, with sham indignation. They threaten to call for a vote through the lobbies to embarrass people. The embarrassment is in their own laps because of what happened on their watch. They failed the Irish people, politically, economically and socially.

Debate adjourned.


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