‘Christmas not cancelled’ - Tanaiste

The Dublin government has been forced to deny suggestions that it is ‘cancelling Christmas’.

The Tanaiste Mary Coughlan was speaking ahead of the Minister for Finance’s pre-Budget outlook today.

She said thar cancelling the traditional Christmas payment for recipients of social welfare was a necessary decision given the rising number of people receiving benefits.

However, she says that does not amount to cancelling Christmas.

“That’s just silly,” she said. “Christmas is the 25th of December, it will still be on the 25th of December and it is still a Christmas holiday.”

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams yesterday launched his party’s campaign to have the ‘Christmas bonus’ restored.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign in Dublin Mr. Adams said the cut by the Government was ‘Scrooge-like’ and will only have negative implications for the economy and society.

“The axing in April’s emergency budget of the Christmas Social Welfare payment is one of the meanest and most scrooge-like cuts I have ever witnessed. Not even during the harsh economic times of the 1980’s was this payment axed.

“Having sat on their hands while thousands of jobs were lost over the past year this Government now wants to make things even harder for ordinary families and pensioners dependant on social welfare this Christmas.

“As well as the hardship it will mean for those directly affected, the axing of Christmas Bonus makes no economic sense. It will result in millions of euros being taken out of local economies putting jobs at further risk.

“But what does it say about society here in Ireland? Sinn Fein believes that the measure of any society is in how it looks after its most vulnerable people. This Government clearly does not share that priority with us.

“Between now and the Budget Sinn Fein will be doing everything we can to put pressure on the Government to restore this payment.”

* The 26-County Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan claimed this evening the outlook for the Irish economy was gradually improving but again insisted 4 billion Euro in savings would have to be found in the Budget.

The Irish economy is expected to decline 1.5 per cent next year, with unemployment peaking at 13.75 per cent, according to the coalition government’s Pre-Budget Outlook which was published this evening.

Unemployment is currently 12 per cent.

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