TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE has defended the government in the face of criticism over proposed changes to the one-parent family allowance proposed by the Minister for Social Protection.
Joan Burton has faced criticism over a proposal contained in the Social Welfare Bill, currently going through the Dáil, to restrict the age at which the allowance is paid by gradually reducing eligibility from those whose youngest child is under 14 down to age 7 by 2014.
Burton told the Dáil last night that she would abandon the proposal if her Cabinet colleagues failed to include adequate childcare provisions in the Budget next December. During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, the opposition called for the government to scrap the proposal altogether.
But Gilmore said that the changes, which would see the gradual reduction in the payment from aged 12 to 10 to 7 by 2014, were being implemented “hand-in-hand” with changes to the provision of childcare.
“No one would argue that a child of seven years should be left at home. That’s nonsense,” Gilmore said but Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the actions of the government were “outrageously deceptive”.
Martin said that the “only sincere approach” was to remove the section of the legislation which deals with the reduction in the age at which the allowance is no longer paid.
‘Big bad wolf’
Gilmore also faced questions from Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald over the measure but reiterated: “There is nobody in this house or this country who would leave a 7 year old without care,” insisting the measure was about “reform”.
McDonald accused Gilmore and the government of being “mean-spirited, penny pinching” in response.
At his first Leaders’ Questions, the Dáil Technical Group’s speaker Richard Boyd-Barrett put it to the Tánaiste that EU legislation indicated that the announcements this week regarding the metering of water would eventually lead to privatisation of water provision.
Gilmore insisted this was not the case and said that the installation of water meters and charging for water in Ireland was about making “provision so that there is an adequate supply”, he added: “We have to make prudent provision.”
Boyd-Barrett argued that water metering would do nothing to improve the infrastructure for water in this country but Gilmore responded that “water metering, as we know, is something that provides for conservation of water”.
He said to the People Before Profit TD that there was “no point in trying to find a big bad wolf where none exists”. It was not the only barb that Boyd-Barrett faced in the Dáil this morning.
At the end of Boyd-Barrett’s first question, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte shouted across the chamber: “Just because you have a double barrelled name doesn’t give you two questions.” A quip that was met with howls of laughter from the government benches.