Irish Republican News · December 9, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Austerity budget sparks further coalition tension
Austerity budget sparks further coalition tension
patricknulty.jpg

A 26-County Government backbencher, Patrick Nulty has formally left the Labour parliamentary party amid a public outcry over the Fine Gael/Labour coalition’s austerity budget, announced this week.

Taxation rates for the wealthy remained unchanged in the budget, which was announced over two days, on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The fiscal plan provided incentives for property developers and corporate interests, but targeted the poorest sections of society for new taxes and cuts.

As a result of the budget, an average family of five which is dependent on social welfare will be over over 1,000 euro ($1,340) worse off per year -- more than an equivalent family with an income of 150,000 euro a year.

Nulty, who was elected to the Dublin parliament in a by-election only weeks ago, voted against the government’s main tax-raising measure, a highly unpopular increase in VAT sales tax from 21 per cent to 23 per cent.

However, the government was forced into a u-turn over another measure, its decision to slash disability allowances for young people.

Callers to radio talk shows had expressed their outrage at the move. Stephen O’Riordan was on the verge of tears as he criticised the government for bailing out the banks and paying unguaranteed bondholders while a verbal promise the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, had personally made to his teenage sister not to touch disability benefits had been broken.

The 15-year-old from Millstreet, County Cork, was born without arms or legs, but remains actively involved in school and community events.

“All our lives myself and my family have fought for my sister to live an independent life and that money would have helped my sister to go on to a third level education,” said Mr O’Riordan.

Kenny said the plan to scrap benefits paid to disabled children under the age of 18 and reduce them for those aged between 18 and 25 had been “paused”.

During one phone-in debate, the Fine Gael Minister for Finance Michael Noonan blamed the disability cuts on the Minister for Social Protection, Labour’s Joan Burton.

Burton later claimed the move had been requested by the ‘Troika’ austerity team appointed by the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF. “There had to be savings found,” she said. “As I say, I made a difficult choice and I can understand people affected criticise.”

Burton was further disgraced this week when it emerged this week she had privately arranged to increase her spin-doctor’s salary to 128,000 euro -- 35,000 euro more than the permitted pay cap for government special advisors.

Concerned backbenchers from both government parties held emergency meetings to discuss the budget cuts.

But Mr Nulty’s response was clear and immediate.

“It is profoundly unfair,” he said, speaking from the plinth of Leinster House on Tuesday afternoon. “The poor, the old and the sick have suffered enough. That has to stop, and I will be voting against measures which undermine their living conditions.”

Mr Nulty was immediately expelled from the Labour parliamentary party and his membership of parliamentary committees revoked.

He is the third Labour TD out of 38, following Willie Penrose and Tommy Broughan, to have taken to the opposition benches since Labour entered coalition nine months ago.

‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’

Sinn Fein’s spokesperson on Social Protection, Aengus O Snodaigh said if Minister Bruton “had any understanding of disability whatsoever” she would “not dream” of suggesting the cut.

“She seems to be operating under the completely false assumption that everyone on disability is some sort of a ‘wayward’ scrounger,” he said.

And in a heated debate in the Dail on Thursday, Mr O Snodaigh said the government had made a choice to hit the weakest in society when it could have decided not to pay the billions of euro owed by Irish banks to their unguaranteed bondholders.

Speaking at a protest against the budget in Wicklow organised by socialist republican party eirigi, party activist Adrian O’Reilly said the 26-County Government was “just like” the previous Fianna Fail-run government in bowing to the ‘Troika’.

“They say we must continue to protect the wild speculators, banksters and politicians who got us into this mess, while they push the introduction of the household tax, which incorporates septic tank charges and the start to domestic water rates.”

“Enough is enough”, he said.

“eirigi are calling on our communities to join the many protests being organised to fight the anti-working class Budget 2012. We cannot give any more, it is time to show those in power that the Irish people are sovereign and not beholden to foreign or domestic economic tyranny.”

Geraldine McNamara of Republican Sinn Fein said that the attempts of the various Dublin governments “to pit the working classes against each other” should not be allowed and should be resisted.

“This budget she said is attempting to do just that,” she said. “The public sector is pitted against the private sector and the employed against the unemployed and even the old against the young.”

© 2011 Irish Republican News