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.