Budget 2014 a 'day of shame' for Labour
Community workers and one former Labour TD have said that the Labour Party in government is inflicting deeper austerity on those least able to cope with it.
Dublin West TD Patrick Nulty has said that Budget 2014 represents an appalling betrayal of the most vulnerable. The Independent TD (elected in the 2011 by-election on a Labour Party ticket before resigning in June 2013 from the Labour Party) said:
"Choice after choice, cut after cut, this budget betrays the vulnerable. In the name of an austerity policy which continues to reward the rich and well connected, the telephone allowance for pensioners has been cut and prescription charges have been hiked. "
"Budget 2014 also represents a further failure on the part of Labour to keep their election promises. They promised to extend mortgage interest supplement. Instead, the supplement will be denied to new applicants. They promised to protect core social welfare payments, but they have cut unemployment benefits for young adults."
"Last week, I launched a document called Principles for a Fair and Progressive budget. The document spelled out where increased tax revenues could be raised from the wealthiest members of society. But the Government has chosen to ignore such options, and instead has introduced a range of punitive measures which will hit ordinary people."
"The callous nature of the cuts to our older citizens, new mothers and young people make this a day of shame for the Labour Party."
Nulty's comments were echoed by community workers John Bisset, Rory Hearne and Rita Fagan speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne outside the Dail.
Rory Hearne said: "I think there's a very clear message sent by the government that they want young people to emigrate. That's what they're offering them. There's a cut to their dole, there's no serious attempt at job creation. There was billions in the pension reserve fund that could have been used to create jobs."
"Once again, [the government] didn't tax wealth," Hearne continued. "They haven't touched corporation tax. It is incredible that Labour in government have instituted a budget that is regressive, that hit the poorest the hardest. Something that is not being talked about is the property tax which is doubling this year.
"It was a disgrace, it was a nonsense, that Michael Noonan said 'This is the end of Anglo'. We are going to be paying for Anglo for decades to come. The interest payment on our debt this year is €8 billion. At least one third of our debt is due to bank debt that should have been written down that wasn't, and this is something that the government has to take back again and look at and get a write down from Europe. We're not going to spend decades paying off the private bank debt that caused this crisis."
"The other thing that is not being looked at is what type of economy are we creating. We saw the amount of young people that are emigrating. Some of them are emigrating from jobs but it's because they're low-quality jobs, they're low paid jobs, they don't have any prospects of geting long-term contracts. Where was the government's response to that"
Community worker Rita Fagan said this is a clever budget, but that it must be taken in the context of seven austerity budgets. Rita Fagan said that people on the margins of poverty are making decisions about "whether they have heating for two days or three days, or whether they have lights on". In relation to free GP care for under fives, Fagan said that people with medical cards already had that facility. She conceded that the move will relieve some people approaching the poverty, but that GP care should be means-tested. Fagan said that the €40 million this initiative costs "will come from the poor of this society".
Senior citizens took six weeks of a cut last year.
John Bisset said he is angered by "the accumulation of deprivation and of inequality that the government continues to inflict on people". Bisset said that while "banner headlines" are the focus of budget day, the hidden effects on the community, youth and drug services sectors in which he works will emerge in coming weeks. "What tends to happen is people don't get to know them, and it's really important that people understand [the effects[." Details of cuts to disadvantaged groups began to emerging Tuesday evening, Bisset said: Long-term unemployed people are losing €20 in entitlements and people over 65 on disability benefits are losing out, he said. "The pain is extended and deep for people way beyond [Budget day]," he said.
"The government has choices to make. Labour had choices to make when it went into power. It had the ultimate choice to make on whether to embark on the initiation of austerity and it took that road. It could have taken a different road a couple of years ago, but it didn't. Today is inflicting another austerity budget"