TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has defended cuts in allowances for communion and confirmation payments saying that it is intended to limit ‘lavish’ expenditure.
The government is planning to cut the payment to a maximum of €110. Parents are currently able to apply for a payment of between €200 and €305 to help cover the costs of the religious occasions, which are held in the vast majority of primary schools in the country.
The cut has been criticised by the Society of the Saint Vincent de Paul who said it was “another cut for people who can’t afford it”.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning, the leader of the Labour party said that €3.4 million was spent last year on 14,000 communion and confirmation payments.
“It is the view of the Minister, and something I share, that we have seen over the years a lot of very lavish expenditure in some cases associated with communions and confirmations,” he said.
Many parishes and schools are anxious to try and get the costs associated with the events under control, Gilmore said, and so it had been decided to limit the payment to under €110.
“Hopefully this will try to limit” the expenditure, the Tánaiste said.
The Tánaiste was responding to a question from Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald who criticised the government for cutting the allowance, saying it wouldn’t just affect people on benefits but also the working poor.
The Sinn Féin TD said that members of the Dáil had claimed €6 million in expenses last year but the government was proposing to take the money “off the backs and out of the pockets of poor people”.
“A child still has to be dressed for an occasion,” she said
Gilmore noted that the payment varied widely by county. Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal had a total of 25 payments made in 2011 for communions and confirmations.
“This is about using the scarce resources of the public to the best effect” to ensure that the money spent on people in need goes to people who have the greatest need for it, he told the Dáil.
“Another cut for people who can’t afford it”
Spokesperson for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Jim Walsh said that the cut would put more pressure on families struggling to make ends meet.
“Unfortunately it seems to us that it’s another cut for people who very often can’t afford it,” he told TheJournal.ie.
“We find people who come to the Society tend to be just about able to manage on a week to week basis – but when occasions like communions, confirmations, a death in the family or going back to school comes up, they really struggle”.
“Then they have to make choices – they have to choose between putting food on the table or heating the home to help deal with the costs”.
“So we’re sorry to see it happen. It’s another additional cost on people and we expect it will bring more people to the Society”.