Private Members Business- 21st of January
Category : Joe O'Reilly
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has just set out very clearly how the Government has dismantled the traditional appointment system to State boards, made it fair and open and took it away from being the preserve of political patronage and the traditional inner circle. He set out the situation lucidly and I do not propose to repeat those points.
In his remarks to Deputy Ross, Deputy Spring reminded me of the great biblical exhortation to let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Those two speeches have fulfilled their purpose. What I propose to do in this motion of confidence in the Tánaiste is to look at her extraordinary record in the face of the worst recession in the history of this State in maintaining a welfare system, a fair society and the dignity of those in need. Some points merit repetition. The core social welfare rates were maintained right through the recession. That is an achievement of the Tánaiste and the Government. Free travel was protected. The respite care grant has been fully restored to €1,700 and it was never less than approximately €1,400. Two weeks of paternity leave have been introduced. A modest but incremental increase has begun for the old age pension. Up to 75% of the Christmas bonus has been restored. Family income supplement has increased by €5 per week. The list goes on. The living alone allowance has been increased by €9 a week. School meals are of the utmost importance and an extra €3 million has been allocated for their provision. A second year of preschool care has been provided. One can see a complete package of welfare achievements by the Government in the midst of the deepest recession. That is the ultimate yardstick by which people with proper critical faculties will assess the performance of the Government and the role of the Tánaiste when they will look at the confidence motion tonight. There is no escaping those realities.
One of the great achievements of the Tánaiste in office and of the Government is that we have moved from a system whereby the traditional, paternalistic payment to jobseekers sentenced people to indefinite dependency to one where a support payment and a support system are provided through Intreo to support people to get from unemployment to work. Not only do we have the enormous record of creating in excess of 125,000 new jobs during our period in government and are currently creating approximately 1,000 a week, but we have the equally important achievement that those people who are now on jobseeker’s benefit get a holistic approach and they are met by all the relevant agencies and given training, support and encouragement to get on programmes that lead to employment. All that is at a time when the minimum wage has been increased by the Government and the universal social charge has been reduced.