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Hanafin should introduce paternity leave and increase maternity benefit

8 May, 2008


Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Social, Community and Family Affairs Arthur Morgan TD responding to Mary Hanafin's announcement that she wants to put an emphasis on family in her new role, said that the first step for the new Minister should be to introduce paid paternity leave and raise maternity benefit payments.

Deputy Morgan said:

"Under the outgoing Minister Martin Cullen, the Department of Social and Family Affairs was merely limping along, with incremental increases in some areas at budget time, nothing in others, and with no new initiatives introduced.

"Mary Hanafin's record in Education has been a mess, but she has been given an opportunity in a new brief to do something useful for the country. She has stated that she wants to prioritise families in her new role. With one of the highest rates of child poverty and the highest cost of childcare in Europe, this is an admirable sentiment, but will take something far more inventive than anything her predecessor ever thought up.

"I am calling on Mary Hanafin to do two things immediately that will positively impact on every family in the state - to introduce two weeks paid paternity leave and to increase the maximum rate of maternity benefit.

"New fathers do not get one day paid paternity leave in this state. This is an outrageous insult to the role of fathers in Irish society. The maximum maternity benefit available to women is €280 a week. With employers under no obligation to top up maternity benefit, this leaves a woman on the average industrial wage of €600 trying to make up a €320 shortfall during the most expensive time of her life.

"There is no point denying that the money to introduce these two initiatives is available. In the Programme for Government commitments are made to reduce PRSI. Sinn Féin wants the Government to admit now that it was wrong to suggest cuts to the social insurance fund, to reverse that decision and to use the money it will save to make a real investment in family life. This should be Mary Hanafin's first move." ENDS

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