THE GOVERNMENT’S CONTROVERSIAL Social Welfare Bill, which will see Child Benefit cut and the Respite Care Grant slashed, passed through the Seanad second stage this evening.
With a 34 to 22 vote, all 12 Labour Senators voted with the Government, despite initial Opposition by a number of them over aspects of the bill, which also allows for PRSI increases and the shortening of jobseekers’ benefit payments.
Senators Feargal Quinn, Rónán Mullen and Seán Barrett voted with the coalition.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton had met with her party representatives in the Seanad earlier today, giving promises to consider submissions from voluntary organisations on how they could provide additional services to vulnerable citizens.
It is understood that four were unhappy about voting for the Bill until that meeting.
Labour Senator John Whelan has apologised to people of Laois-Offaly for breaking his election promise about Child Benefit payments, stating that he shared their “deep sense of betrayal”.
In a statement, he said:
Finally, there are 50 members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. I am not a career politician and rank myself as number 50 in the PLP. I do my utmost to effect and campaign for change and real reform. There are also many things I aspire and intend to achieve on behalf of my community. I do not believe that I can do so from the sidelines, but rather from within the Labour Party to which I am committed and within the Government, which I support.
We may not have prevailed on all matters on this occasion, but you cannot quit every time you don’t get your own way. Mindful of the serious and strongly held reservations I have expressed in relation to the child benefit and carers cuts and following intensive and lengthy consultation within my own community, I am determined to press for change and to protect our policies and principles as best I can as a Labour Senator.
The Bill will now go to Committee (Third Stage) where it will be examined by the relevant Oireachtas committees.