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dole cuts

Gilmore: "The place for any young person is not permanently in front of a flatscreen"

The cut in dole payments for young people dominated Leader’s Questions, following a Labour backbencher’s remark about young people ‘stuck watching flatscreens’.

TÁNAISTE EAMON GILMORE staged a combative defence of plans to cut social welfare payments for young people in the face of criticism from Fiana Fáil, Sinn Féin and the ULA’s Clare Daly in Leader’s Questions today.

The measure, unveiled as part of Tuesday’s Budget, will see new entrants to the Live Register receive a dole payment of just €100 until they reach the age of 25.

First to his feet this morning was Fianna Fáil’s social protection spokesman Willie O’Dea. The Limerick TD paid tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Labour leader for a staging a Budget that was a “triumph in PR and spin” before launching into a list of the various cuts to non-core welfare payments that had been brought in under the coalition.

He accused the Labour party of presiding over a dole cuts programme that would “pauperise the young” and asked Gilmore whether he agreed with the comment by Dublin South West deputy Eamonn Moloney that the measure would make sure young people aren’t stuck watching “flat screen televisions” seven days a week.

image[Oireachtas TV]

Responding, the Tánaiste referenced Budget figures contained in the the Fianna Fáil four year National Recovery plan, launched by then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen almost three years ago.

Gilmore said the party’s Budget plans for 2014 would have resulted in an extra €1.7 billion in cuts in the Department of Social Protection, and asked what additional cuts O’Dea would have made, had he been in Minister Joan Burton’s seat.

O’Dea said the nation had already passed its judgement on the last Government, and recommended Gilmore check Fianna Fáil’s more up to date figures in their alternative Budget, launched earlier this month.

Challenged again by O’Dea on the question of whether he agreed the dole changes were or were not ‘a cut,’ Gilmore defended the Government’s approach, pointing to measures being brought in to get young people back to work.

“The change that we have made has been to oversee labour activation measures that are about getting young poeple back into work and back into training.

“We do not believe that any young person should find themselves in a situation where they go into an unemployment payment at the age of 18 and still find themselves there at the age of 25.”

image[Oireachtas TV]

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald also raised the “flatscreens” comment, as she launched an attack on the Government for “whipping the rug” out from under young people starting out in the workplace.

In response, the Labour leader again talked up job creation initiatives, saying  ”we have provided €500 million in additional funding for employment creation measures”.

“The place for any young person is not permanently in front of a flat screen television.”

He said the focus needed to be on “good jobs and well-paid jobs for which they have the appropriate education and training”.

Black & white

ULA TD Clare Daly told the Tánaiste that, no matter whether voters were watching on “flat screens or black and white” there could be no doubt that he had honed the skill of saying one thing and doing another into “fine art,” before accusing the Labour leader of “political treachery”.

image[Oireachtas TV]

Regarding the dole cuts for younger people, she asked “did you get your idea from David Cameron and the Tories? He wants to remove them from jobseeker’s and housing benefit!”

Gilmore paused to reply to Daly’s ‘treachery’ accusation, saying that in his years in the Dáil he had never “stooped into making an attack on anybody’s character — please don’t invite me to reciprocate”.

After a long answer, and another follow-up contribution from the ULA deputy, Gilmore ended the question and answer session by referring to the deal agreed in the US overnight to end the federal shutdown. He said he was glad that agreement had been reached by “sensible people,” and decried the “extreme ideological voices” on the right.

Addressing Daly directly, he claimed her propensity to “rail and shout” had led him to the conlusion that she represented the “Irish equivalent of the Tea Party”.

Read: US avoids default as last minute deal struck >

Read: Core payments were protected thanks to job creation – Burton >

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