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Seanad fails to act as watchdog as Social Welfare Bill passes - Cullinane

7 November, 2013 - by David Cullinane TD

Speaking after the Seanad voted to pass the Social Welfare Bill, Sinn Fein national spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Senator David Cullinane said:

“This was a golden opportunity for the Seanad to stand up for ordinary people and to reject the Government’s austerity policies. Instead it failed to act as a watchdog.  

“By voting in favour of the Social Welfare Bill, Fine Gael and government appointed Senators chose instead to ratify draconian cuts to young people, to the elderly, and to new mothers.

“How else can one describe cuts to maternity benefits that will force mothers back to work early. Or the decision to do away with the bereavement and telephone allowance, not to mention the cruel and short-sighted  cuts to job seekers allowance for the under twenty-fives.

“It would appear that Senators who voted for today’s cuts have conveniently forgotten the rhetoric and grandstanding they engaged in during the recent referendum when they argued for the retention of the Seanad.

“As happens so often in Irish politics when push came to shove these very same people towed the party line and failed to defend ordinary people against the slash and burn politics of Fine Gael.

“And make no mistake about it this was not a Labour Welfare Bill. Cutting state transfers to vulnerable groups, to the unemployed, to women and young children is straight out of Fine Gael’s policy text book.

“Its key project is the deliberate and conscious dismantling of the welfare state, irrespective of the impact on ordinary people.

In the midst of this, to hear Fianna Fail Senators harking on about fairness smacks of political opportunism. Lest we forget, when in power this was the party that cut the minimum wage and children’s allowance.

“Make no bones about it, if Fianna Fail were in government today they would introduce the very same cuts as their colleagues in Fine Gael.

“It is now time for both parties to do the decent thing and merge. Then we would have a clear division between the parties of the right who favour the market, and those on the left who believe in equality and fairness.”

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