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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 19 July, 2018
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Mary Lou and Joan just had ANOTHER showdown in the Dáil

McDonald accused Burton of being “anti-women”, who in turn said Sinn Féin has no serious policies.

Mary Lou McDonald
Mary Lou McDonald
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THERE WAS A heated debate in the Dáil this evening as deputies discussed changes to payments for lone parents.

From this week, parents in receipt of the One-Parent Family (OFP) Payment are due to be moved to different payments, mainly the Jobseekers Transitional Allowance, when their youngest child reaches the age of seven.

The government has repeatedly defended the move, saying it will end social welfare dependence and encourage more people to work. However, others have said it is a cut too far for those already close to the poverty line.

This evening, Sinn Féin proposed a Private Members Motion motion on the issue.

The party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said some households could lose up to €87 a week when the new measures are implemented.

Speaking in the Dáil, McDonald accused the government of being anti-women and anti-children.

“The government, and in particular the Labour party, have earned for themselves the unenviable reputation of being anti-women and anti-child, and they don’t seem to care who knows it.

Screenshot 2015-06-30 at 20.05.07 Source: Oireachtas.ie

“They clearly have made a calculated decision that lone parents, like carers and other vulnerable sections of society, are inconsequential. They are a section of voters whose support they don’t really need, or so they think.

Since taking office, the government has made eight separate cuts to payments to lone-parent families. And now in their latest measure, of the 30,000 lone parents affected, around 20,000 are to be transferred onto the new Transitional Jobseekers Allowance.

“The average cost of childcare per week is €167, and it is higher in Dublin. Child care can cost as much as 52% of the take home pay of a lone parent,” McDonald said.

Hitting back

The Tánaiste refuted this, saying Sinn Féin has no “serious” policies.

“The easiest thing in politics is to do nothing, to shirk reforms that will be positive in the long-term because they are unpopular in the short-term.

“It would be the easiest thing in the world to call a halt to the OFP reforms – as Sinn Fein would do – for short-term political gain. But Sinn Fein’s answer – a welfare economy – is not a sustainable answer. Then again, Sinn Fein never does produce serious answers.

Gerry Adams wanted Ireland to tell the institutions to go home and take their money with them. We can now see where that approach has got Greece. Sinn Fein wants to abolish the property tax and water charges. But how would Sinn Fein fund this, and who would pay for it?

“In that respect, tonight’s motion was utterly predictable. But in its rush to populism, Sinn Fein shows no interest in tackling poverty,” Burton stated.

Screenshot 2015-06-30 at 20.18.30 Joan Burton

Burton said she “very deliberately ensured” the age threshold for OFP ceasing would be seven years of age – higher than the age in the UK, the Netherlands and New Zealand (five years) as they have “better-developed childcare systems”.

The Labour party leader said it should be noted that after the reforms have been fully implemented, lone parents whose youngest child is seven years of age or older and who are in employment will “continue to receive substantial level of financial support from the State”.

For example, a lone parent with one child working 19 hours a week on minimum wage will receive almost €235 tax-free a week from the Department. This is in addition to their weekly earnings of €165, bringing their cumulative income to almost €400 per week.

“For a three-child household, the State support increases by €135 – from almost €280 to €415 – and the total income increases by €300 to almost €590 per week. This compares to someone working 39 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage who receives €337 before tax per week.”

A vote on the motion will take place tomorrow evening.

Read: Mary Lou says Joan Burton is ‘giving two fingers’ to the public

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Órla Ryan

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