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TDs begin debating Budget 2012's social welfare cuts

The Social Welfare Bill 2011 will be voted on by TDs tomorrow – but former Labour TDs Penrose and Nulty have broken ranks again.

Former Labour TDs Willie Penrose and Patrick Nulty both opposed the Social Welfare Bill on its first vote.
Former Labour TDs Willie Penrose and Patrick Nulty both opposed the Social Welfare Bill on its first vote.

THE DÁIL has this afternoon begun a two-day debate on a bill that brings the Budget’s social welfare provisions into law.

The Social Welfare Bill 2011, which gives legal effect to various changes announced in the Budget, restricting eligibility for certain benefits and allowances.

As it currently stands, the Bill includes the controversial provision to change the rates and eligibility criteria for disability benefits and domiciliary care allowance – a move the government has since announced as being ‘paused’, pending a review.

It is understood that the section of the Bill which brings those measures into effect – and which would otherwise come into effect on January 1 next – is to be amended at committee stage tomorrow.

The government’s amendment will keep the proposal in the Bill, but not bring it into effect – allowing minister Joan Burton to activate it at a later date if the review, being carried out by Ita Mangan, upholds the proposal.

Unusually, the opposition parties called a vote this afternoon on whether to even allow the Bill to be debated in the Dáil – with former Labour TDs Willie Penrose and Patrick Nulty both voting against the government side.

Tommy Broughan, the third Labour member to have forfeited the whip, sided with the government.

The government won that vote by 88 votes to 42.

In her speech to the Dáil backing the bill, Burton said she was “sorry for causing any anxiety” in proposing the cuts to disability benefits for young people – a move which has met with considerable backbench, opposition and public dismay.

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Gavan Reilly

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