Child Benefit: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 696 No. 4

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The following motion was moved by Deputy Róisín Shortall on Tuesday, 1 December 2009:

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

[799]

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  As I intend to share time with Deputy Lee, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle might tell me when five minutes have elapsed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Very well.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this motion and am glad the Labour Party has tabled it. I also am pleased with the position of my party, Fine Gael and that of Deputy Kenny in respect of child benefit. It is important to spell out clearly that Fine Gael and the Labour Party are committed to women. I wish to repeat a point I have made in the House previously, which is that child benefit is the only payment that is paid to women. Like the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and other Members, I hold clinics on a regular basis and I cannot count the number of times over the years that my constituency office has been visited by women who were married to rich and mean men. I refer to men who one would think were wealthy and would be good to their wives and families. However, such men were mean and would not give their wives any of their incomes or additional money to look after their children. The payment of child benefit has kept many women alive and has provided them with a small degree of independence. If Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Independent Members attack women in this budget, I can forecast the outcome. One should not anger women because when they unite, fight and come together, they will make the Government pay and will make it realise it has made a major mistake. I assure Members the women of Ireland will organise if the Government attacks child benefit in the forthcoming budget.

The family and children are still important in Ireland. Over the past year in particular, as the reports regarding the protection of children have emerged, it is clear the State failed to protect the most vulnerable children. At least child benefit still remains to protect them at present. Many women have put that money away to have additional money for Christmas, for [800]an additional pair of shoes, for school books or to educate their children in the future. The biggest single mistake that Fianna Fáil and the Government could make would be to tamper in any way with child benefit in the forthcoming budget.

I have heard the argument about the rich, the middle classes and the poor and how the benefit should be targeted at those who need it most. The people who need it most are small children. Moreover, the people who are being described as being well off pay their taxes and their dues and get very little from the State. In some cases, this benefit is the only income they receive from the State, although they are obliged to make payments continually. They pay their mortgages or rents and in some cases are not entitled to medical cards. They are caught in every situation and constitute the new poor. I refer in particular to middle class people who are obliged to pay for everything and whose only benefit from the State is child benefit.

I acknowledge the Minister of State, Deputy Áine Brady, is a new and young Minister. I hope her period of office will continue for another few months before my party takes over. I am glad she has had her little run——

Deputy Mary O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  She will not go that quickly.

Deputy Michael Ring: Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  ——because the people want change and want it now. They seek change and if the Government tampers in any way with child benefit next week, I assure the Minister of State that the women of Ireland will unite. They will be at the gates of Leinster House, the Minister of State’s clinic and the clinics of everyone in Fianna Fáil by the following week. I guarantee the Minister of State that such a decision would be reversed before Christmas Eve.

I acknowledge the Government has increased child benefit in recent years. However, it should not undo all the good work that has been done in recent years. This is a single payment that should be protected because it is paid to women. Women look after the family and their children and this payment should not be tampered with. The present payments should be left to every woman in the State. People have put that money aside and have plans for it in the future. I hope it is left to them.

Deputy George Lee: Zoom on George Lee  I welcome this important motion. As it states that cutting child benefit would be far more deflationary than alternative revenue, it is about choices. While the Government clearly has tough choices to make, I urge it not to make this choice at all. Child benefit already has been cut for next year. It was announced in the budget of October 2008 that child benefit for children over the age of 18 would be halved in 2009. That measure will cost each family with an 18-year-old €1,000 in 2009. In addition, from 2010, any family with an 18-year-old in full-time education will receive no child benefit for that person. In 2010, this will cost each family with an 18-year-old the enormous sum of €2,000. It constitutes a huge disincentive for such families, many of whom need this money to keep those children in education and some of whom cannot afford to do so without this support. This measure is akin to shooting ourselves in the foot economically, because people must be trained and educated and everyone values the impact of so doing on the economy. Consequently, making the choice to take away that support is not good for anyone and I urge the Government not to do so.

The position of families with children has deteriorated relative to families without children throughout the boom, because the economic boom was all about individualisation of the taxation system and individualisation of society. In the budget for 2000, the then Minister, Charlie McCreevy, announced individualisation of the taxation system to give £900 million in tax breaks [801]to double-income families and to single individuals. None of this money was given to families with children, which in many cases had only one person earning. The resulting backlash meant the Minister was obliged to rewrite his budget twice. He introduced the home carer’s allowance to appear to rebalance it in favour of families with children. Subsequently, in the following year, he announced that he would double child benefit payments to rebalance the system as it had become clear that the effect of the Government’s actions had been to disadvantage people in single income families with children and who face big bills.

However, over the years, the doubling of child benefit payments, which was to have taken place over three years, was never delivered on. At the same time, individualisation of the taxation system was continued, first by increasing the individual tax band to such an extent that a second earner in a family who does not have small children to support and who can afford to go out to work can now earn an additional €25,000 for the family at a marginal tax rate of 25%. While this is a good benefit about which no one is complaining, the issue pertains to the actual choice. In addition, more was given for such families. In reality, this was a huge disincentive for those with larger families or with single incomes. The increased child benefit was not delivered, which strikes me as being particularly unfair because a consequence of the changes to the taxation system changes is that the Government is now short of money. It now complains that not enough people are in the top tax rate. Only 10% of workers are in that rate, which is due to individualisation. However, when this fact hit home, the Government’s first act is to hit the families with children on single incomes. It seeks to cut child benefit payments and make such families pay for the mistake of individualisation of the taxation system.

One major issue is that our international financial reputation has been damaged by the Government’s management of the economy because we have a major deficit and this message has gone out to financial markets. However, our reputation is not the same as our character. A famous American college basketball coach, John Wooden, coined the phrase that failure to prepare is to prepare to fail. Another of his many maxims is that reputation is what others think we are but that character is what we really are. Our character has demonstrated down through the years that we defend children and families with children. This has been evident in the Supreme Court and elsewhere. Article 41 of the Constitution states:

Cutting child benefit goes to the heart in undermining the character of the Irish nation and is a big mistake. One cannot say from the outside which families need the money. For example, I know one businessman, supporting employment, with a business mortgage of €1 million from the bank. He lives on €200 a week and supports his family. Cutting child benefit to such an individual would bring his business down, causing others to become unemployed and further deflate the economy.

Cutting child benefit will be a deflationary and bad choice. The country needs the support it provides for families. Families with children are the ones with the least money to spend in general. When their money is cut, so is their spending. If money is taken from those who have much spare money, many of whom do not have children, it will tend to affect their savings. [802] This in essence is less deflationary a measure and will not have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy.

The motion is correct that there are other alternatives to attacking children by cutting child benefit to raise moneys for the Exchequer. These would be less deflationary. I urge the Minister to take note of the motion and make different choices in how the State raises revenue. It is critical to our character and character is everything.

Deputy Mary O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I wish to share time with Deputies Flynn, Thomas Byrne, Conlon, O’Connor and Cyprian Brady.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Mary O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  As Deputy Lee was speaking, I thought what will RTE do without him this year for the budget as he is such a familiar figure but, of course, he will have the forum of the Dáil in which to give his opinions. I do not know how Fianna Fáil will accept it but RTE must greatly miss the Deputy.

I would dearly like to stand up here tonight and say we are all in favour of large increases in child benefit but we cannot do so. Every Member in the House well knows that it is easy to blithely say there are other ways for the Exchequer to get X number of millions or billions of euro. However, there are not.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  That is not correct. Deputy O’Rourke is misleading the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow Deputy O’Rourke to make her contribution. Time is limited.

Deputy Mary O’Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  I have never interrupted Deputy Shortall as I would not dream of doing such a silly thing. She should allow anyone else who wishes to speak to make their point, however. It is a gross discourtesy to anyone not to allow them.

Fianna Fáil continues to get little credit for all the moneys that went into social welfare benefits every year since it took power. Every time there was only caterwauling and crying from the Opposition benches that it was not enough. Child benefit has increased from €638 million in 2000 to €2.5 billion in 2008. That is a huge amount of money on a very worthwhile and laudable allowance. Every woman in the land welcomes the fact that it is paid to the mother, a change introduced by a Fianna Fáil Government. Women, by and large, have used it for the good of their children, be it for clothes, education or medical costs.

The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin, has ensured that those in the greatest need continue to get the greatest payments. That is the right sentiment to have. Many Deputies encouraged people to apply for the family income supplement when it was a little known allowance. Its allocation has increased from €39.4 million to €200 million this year. It is an enormous State subvention to people at the very bottom of the ladder in the economy who genuinely need it. The qualified child increased rate of payment is €26 per child per week, up from €21.60 per child in 2006. It is targeted at those on social welfare or family income supplement going back to work. They can keep it for 13 weeks after they have entered employment. These are great improvements in how we treat children.

I commend the various social welfare Ministers who have improved social welfare benefits. I hope whatever is announced next week will be for the benefit of those in the lowest bracket of economic life. They need it very much.

[803]Deputy Beverley Flynn: Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Child benefit is hugely important to all families, particularly in the current economic climate. In the past number of months I have heard much from women and families about child benefit and how dependent they are on it.

The Minister for Social and Family Affairs outlined the ways in which families, whether low, middle or high income, depend on the benefit. Their uses for it vary from basic food to paying the mortgage to making other loan repayments to paying for child care costs. The benefit allows women the opportunity to work and is paid directly to mothers. For many women, it has given them the necessary independence, dignity and ability to deal with many household bills related to their children.

Some question whether the benefit means anything to middle or high-income earners. However, while some families may appear to be well-off, often they can be under severe financial strain. It is important the State cherishes and values each child equally, irrespective of their parents’ income.

Having said that, it has to be recognised child benefit costs the State €2.5 billion per annum. This year the social welfare budget will come to more than €21 billion. All sides of the House recognise a cut of €4 billion must be achieved in the forthcoming budget. Unfortunately, the Government side is not in the happy position of being able to agree with every single group lobbying for its area to be left alone. We hear the Opposition calling for no cuts to public sector pay or social welfare. If so, one then must ask from where will the €4 billion cuts come.

It has been evident over the past nine years that child benefit has been a fundamental priority for Fianna Fáil. Since 2000, we have increased the rate of child benefit from just €53.96 per month for each of their first and second children and €71.11 per month for the third and each subsequent child to €166 and €203 per child respectively. That shows the commitment on this side of the House to put our money where our mouths are, by allocating significant funding to child benefit when we were in a position to afford it. This has benefited over 600,000 households.

The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin, has gone to great lengths to ensure she has listened to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the National Womens Council, CORI and all sides of the House in this debate. The Minister has various options. She could tax child benefit or means test it. I disagree with both options. She could take a straight cut off the top or leave it alone, the preferable option. Although there has been deflation of approximately 5% in the past year, if the Minister must go down any of these roads, she should take a small amount off the top and keep it to the smallest margin possible.

I welcome that from 1 January 2010 a free preschool place will be made available to all children in the year prior to their starting school, which is an important development. The Government gave a commitment to provide equal access to all children. Many children who would not have had an opportunity of obtaining a preschool place in a crèche will have such opportunity from next year.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy has one minute remaining.

Deputy Beverley Flynn: Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  The cost of providing these preschool places will be €170 million. We are delighted that, despite comment by the Opposition that these places would never be made available, 98,000 places have been made available. This scheme which provides direct support to families and direct benefit to children is, I believe, headed for great success. My message, as a mother of young children — I am conscious of this having met with many people with young children — is that child benefit is important to all families. Families need it and [804]are dependent on it now more than ever given the times in which we live. I ask the Minister to bear this in mind and to be as fair and equitable as possible in next week’s budget.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  The fundamental criticism of the Government by the Opposition at this time is that it has spent too much and has let the public finances get out of control. Child benefit has increased from €638 million in 2000 to €2.5 billion this year. Is it this to what they are referring when they say spending is out of control? The Government has spent a large amount of money in this area. We must ask the fundamental question of the Opposition, when the leaders of the two main parties appear on important television programmes and announce with great authority that the public finances must be cut by €4 billion, in what areas will they impose cuts to achieve this €4 billion? They are telling groups who appear before them campaigning on this issue that they are not the ones on whom they will impose cuts. However, it is important the campaigners on all of these issues are aware that the Opposition is telling that to every group they meet. There is a fundamental dishonesty at the heart of the Opposition’s policies.

The fundamental pro-family agenda of Fianna Fáil has been demonstrated by our record during the past few years. Our record is second to none in terms of supporting families and children. I know this only too well as a representative of a constituency with one of the youngest age profiles in the country. There are more children in my constituency than in many others when one averages out the population. That record must be acknowledged.

It must also be acknowledged that the public finances are in deep disorder. If we fail to make tough decisions now, what will happen next March or April when the Minister or Finance or the National Treasury Management Agency tries to borrow from the world markets the €2 billion per month we require and they say “No?” What will we do then? We will be castigated by the Opposition for not imposing enough cuts, which is not what they are saying now. We must take a prudent approach to the public finances. I plead with the Government to take the tough decisions and to be as tough as possible to save the country and children.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Government has choices.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  It has lots of choices.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Why then is it hitting children and families first?

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  It is hard to make choices when €4 billion is required.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  What did the children of this country ever do to the Government?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please allow Deputy Byrne to make his contribution.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  The Labour party has made no choices. It simply agrees with every group with whom it meets.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Deputy was not listening. We set them out last night.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  The Labour Party leader has suggested that to achieve the €4 billion required public sector pay could be cut by 5% but that on individual salaries it would not work out like that.

[805]Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  The Government is only now discovering there is a problem, having caused it.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  The Labour Party is saying that it agrees with an overall cut of 5% in the overall budget but will not touch salaries. It speaks about magic figures and people have found it out. This is its across the board answer to everything.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  It is not the Government’s fault.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  We know all about the magic figures in Government Buildings last night.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  This Government’s record is one to be proud of, as is the Government’s commitment to protecting the most vulnerable and those in need. I include among the most vulnerable those with high mortgages and high outgoings but not the wealthy. I fundamentally disagree with the principle of universality of child benefit. It is not appropriate——

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Government should tax the very wealthy.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  It is totally inefficient to tax people and then hand back to them money in the form of child benefit which they do not need.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  How will the Government do it?

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  The Government is handing child benefit——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please allow Deputy Byrne make his contribution.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  The Labour Party is not able to take justified criticism. I do not agree with taxing people and then handing back to them money which they do not need. I agree with taxing people in order to provide services and to protect the most vulnerable and needy. The most needy includes middle income families with high debt, which must be acknowledged.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy has one minute remaining.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  I ask that the Minister bear in mind the needs of mothers of twins, triplets and so on. There are two families with triplets living within a few hundred yards of my constituency office. There are few families in the country with triplets and above. I ask that the Minister deal with these families in the most sympathetic fashion as they do not receive a great deal of other support from the State. While their current child benefit payments are generous they are vital to them.

Deputy Margaret Conlon: Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  I thank Deputy O’Rourke for sharing time with me. I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate.

We all recognise the difficult economic situation in which we find ourselves. The Government is cognisant of the fact that this is a difficult time for many families throughout the country. We have a growing number of people looking to the State for support. This is, unfortunately, increasing on a daily basis owing to the increase in the number of people on the live register. The Government has done its best in the past few difficult years to prioritise social welfare with the overriding principle that we will be fair and equitable while protecting the most vulner[806]able people in our society. This will continue to be its overriding principle. The Minister was clear on this in his contribution last night.

As a country, we are borrowing €420 million per week for day-to-day living, which is not sustainable. I recall when on holiday a number of years ago that my husband bought me a postcard which said: “If your outgoings are more than your incomings, your upkeep will be your downfall”. If we are increasing our borrowing this means our interest repayments are increasing, leaving us with less money to spend on day-to-day living. If we continue to do this we will find ourselves in a much worse situation and facing the possibility of having European agencies coming in here to take a closer look at what is happening.

When we had money to do so, we gave significant increases in payments to families. It is widely recognised that the increases in child benefit during the good years helped all families. They have played a major role in reducing child poverty. Many members referred this evening to the requirement to cherish all of the children of the nation equally. In 1944, child benefit was only paid in respect of a third child. In 1963, all children under 16 years of age became eligible for child benefit. In 1974, the payment was vested in the mother. We have come a long way.

Child benefit is in the main paid to women, who are good managers, in particular when it comes to dealing with money in the household. Child benefit payments are utilised in many ways. I agree with those speakers who stated that there are wealthy men in this country who do not give to the woman of the house that to which she is entitled and deserves and that for this reason women depend on child benefit payments. Often women are waiting on child benefit payments to buy clothes, shoes, books or to even put food on the table. This payment is important, in particular at Christmas time, given the expense involved.

I cannot pre-empt what the Minister for Finance might do in the budget. However, I am sure he will strive to find a fair and equitable way of dealing with child benefit payments, with the overriding principle of protecting the most vulnerable in society. The Departments of Social and Family Affairs, Health and Children and Education and Science are the three biggest in terms of spending. We cannot exempt any of these Departments from the cuts. Every area must be considered.

There have been huge investments and major improvements in child care, which have given women greater opportunities particularly in terms of seeking employment. At the end of last year, people approached me to discuss the ending of the early child care supplement. The same people now tell me they are delighted their child will have a free preschool year. They consider it to be a wonderful achievement that this opportunity will be available to all children.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  They have lost €1,000 per year.

Deputy Margaret Conlon: Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Prior to this some might not have been in a position to access it.

The Minister outlined last night the major resources that have been allocated to children and families. Times are now more challenging and we must cut our cloth according to our measure. The Minister has listened to the various groups and she will continue to protect those on low incomes. I have every confidence she will be mindful of our contributions when making her decision.

Deputy Charlie O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this important debate. I compliment our colleague, Deputy Róisín Shortall, on giving us the opportunity to make these contributions. I do not remember 1944, but I remember bygone days [807]when, as a small child, I was aware that my mother collected the child benefit. It was a long time ago but on those days, which is probably why I remember them, one got an extra penny for going to the shops. At that time it was not compulsory for the mother to draw the benefit but in our case my mother did. I do not hesitate to support calls on the Minister to do her utmost next week where child benefit is concerned.

Many people have been saying to me in recent days that they wish today was budget day because, as the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, said recently, there has never been so much debate, speculation and comment on a budget. That has been the case throughout the past number of weeks. In Tallaght, where I live, one can see posters on almost every lamp post — they have been produced by the Socialist Party, to which I do not mind giving a plug — urging people to turn up at my clinic in Tallaght Welfare Society next Saturday morning to protest. If I tried to advertise my availability, the council would summons me and take down the posters. However, the socialists can do it. It is a reminder of the season we are in.

Like other colleagues, we have been meeting various groups in recent weeks. They make strong cases on behalf of their causes. As Vice Chairman of the committee on social and family affairs I, along with Deputies Róisín Shortall, Thomas Byrne and other colleagues as well as the Chairman, Deputy Jackie Healy-Rae, have met the carers, the Alzheimers group and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Every group can make a strong case for their cause. We have been listening to them on the Government benches and we are anxious to represent what they say and their serious concerns. To be parochial again, I am a member of the board of Tallaght Welfare Society. It has been in existence for 40 years, serving the disadvantaged in a caring way. The society made a pre-budget submission this year as always, which mentioned all the issues that concern communities. The society highlighted the importance of child benefit.

I listened to the Minister’s contribution last night and I was glad she made the point that at this important time in our history child benefit remains a priority for the vulnerable families who need it. I will not get into the argument about millionaire families receiving the benefit. I have a clear view but I must be careful how I express it because the last time I expressed it I was misquoted. I do not mind being misquoted because any publicity at my level is appreciated, but it is important to make the point that I want to continue to represent people who are in the less well-off bracket and people who are vulnerable. We always said that at a time when big boats were rising it was important to remember the little boats. If all boats are struggling, it is absolutely imperative to look after the little boats.

All the organisations I mentioned, and others, have spoken. There were protests outside this building today and yesterday. Everybody has a strong case to make and a cause all of us would wish to support. I wish the Minister, Deputy Mary Hanafin, well over the next week because she will have a difficult job. I hope even Members on the Opposition benches will support her. She will have to fight her cause and I suspect she will do it very skilfully. The announcement will be made this day next week, although, as I said earlier, many people are saying to me, “For God’s sake, let us have it today”. I hope the vulnerable are protected, and that includes child benefit.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Will the Deputy support our motion? Will he vote for it?

Deputy Charlie O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  Deputy Shortall knows this game. If she were in my position, she would do exactly the same.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Allow Deputy O’Connor to conclude.

[808]Deputy Róisín Shortall: Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  The Deputy will have an opportunity at 8.30 p.m.

Deputy Charlie O’Connor: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  If the Deputy’s party was lucky enough to get into Government, it would face the same challenges. I will not be drawn up that cul-de-sac. I look forward to the rest of the debate.

Deputy Cyprian Brady: Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  I, too, welcome the opportunity to contribute briefly to this debate. Anybody who has had the privilege and responsibility of raising children knows what the costs are and how those costs change as children grow older. Sometimes it amazes me that, to judge by some of the comments that are made, people do not recognise the huge improvements that have been made in recent years with regard to child care and particularly child benefit. It is interesting to look at the numbers. In 1982, child benefit for the first five children was €8.86 each and €13.78 for the sixth child. In 1992, it was €20 each for the first three children and €29.07 for the fourth child. There have been major increases each year over the past ten years.

The reasons for those increases are as valid today as they were ten, eight or five years ago. This Government has always recognised the importance of the child benefit payment for all families. There has been some discussion about wealthy families compared to other families but, in my experience, every family uses the child benefit, and particularly those on low incomes. These are the people we must protect, and we must make tough decisions to do that. They depend on child benefit more than others. In light of the increases that have occurred, there can be no argument but that things have improved over the years. As the Minister said last night, families who are dependent on basic social welfare payments are entitled to extra payments.

Child benefit plays a huge role in many families. Every week in my constituency, I encounter family units, be they couples or single parents, who are dependent on all the payments they receive, including child benefit. To sustain the current position and to ensure those payments continue to be made each week and month, we must make some tough decisions next week. Everybody in the House would argue that we must protect the most vulnerable and those who depend on welfare. We must keep people in jobs. Basically, we must ensure that the children of this generation and the next are not burdened with huge debt whereby they will be unable to pay any welfare payments, including child benefit.

I have no hesitation supporting the Government’s amendment because, when we were able, we have made a difference to people’s lives on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. If we are to continue to do that, we must make a decision to protect those who depend on welfare the most, those who are losing their jobs or are under threat of losing their jobs and to sustain people who are in employment. Our decisions in the next week will feed directly into how children are treated.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I propose to share time with Deputies Jan O’Sullivan, Costello, Sherlock and Ó Snodaigh.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I welcome the opportunity to have even a few minutes to speak on this important Labour Party motion, which I support strongly and on which many Labour Deputies, given their experience with children and families, are likely to speak.

We have listened to a great deal of wind from those opposite. If people are in favour of children and their welfare, they will have an opportunity at 8.30 p.m. to vote with us on this motion. Let us take what I just heard. We were asked whether we ever believed that child [809]benefit would rise in cost from €638 million to €2.5 billion. Is this not interesting? One does not find people on the Government side of the House discussing the €600 million that goes on rental income for landlords, the €400 million the Government gave in property reliefs or the hundreds of millions of euro that it allowed through pension contributions from people on the highest incomes. In fact, the windy statement is that tough decisions must be taken. One of the toughest decisions will be to put an end to the gross inequality in tax reliefs and benefits that managed to puff up the economy to the point of collapse.

I want to discuss children realistically. People mentioned the increase to €2.5 billion, but significant things have happened to the Irish family. Former European Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, presided over the cuts in question when he was the Minister for Finance, but I remember, when I entered the House, children used to live in a home. Then, it became a question of putting one’s foot on the property ladder àla McCreevy and the rest of the property people on the other side of the House. They suggested that people should keep on speculating. Suddenly, it was not sufficient for one person to have an income and to get a mortgage amounting to three and a half times that income. Both people were conscripted into work in the property racket, in which people paid greater amounts for houses that had nothing to do with building costs or the houses’ reasonable values. Now, the property people are telling us that we all lived it up. We were not all Seanie FitzPatricks. We did not all borrow €106 million from our own banks. We were not shifting money from a bank to a building society. It is time for all of this “We” stuff to stop.

What will be decided at 8.30 p.m. is whether child benefit will be left intact from any measure. There are good reasons for leaving it alone, including the principle of universality. Let us say we are building a new kind of economy and society and that we accept all children as being equal. If one accepts the concept of universality of child benefit, one also assists citizenship. Whether we are here a day or 20 years, we all know that the earlier one intervenes in a child’s welfare, the better the chance of achieving equality. We also know that, given our society, it is mothers who use the payment, sometimes to ensure the child’s survival and sometimes for the most minimal benefit. We know that the way it is allocated does not create a poverty trap. The ESRI, the Commission on Taxation and others have examined child benefit, but have not suggested a mechanism to change it. Therefore, the Labour Party asks that children be left alone at least and that this benefit be left in the homes that need it the most.

We have heard a lot of what I would call “stuff” about how, when times were good, we did such and such. When times were good, the Fianna Fáil Party looked after property speculators. When times are bad, it cannot be trusted to look after the poor. To the person at the back who suggested that an election would be awful, I say the sooner the better. It is important to state that none of us on this side of the House has been invited or is willing to participate in some kind of consensus that would keep the rackets or property circulation going. We want to acknowledge that they are gone forever. As we begin putting something new in place, we want to know whether all children will be treated equally and whether this minimal benefit will go to those who need it desperately. For this reason, the test is not whether people claim they know this or that or that they met someone with triplets or twins. At 8.30 p.m., they will have their chance. They will either vote with us or against us.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Hear, hear.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan: Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  In the wake of the Murphy report, given what probably will be the worst budget on record and with divisiveness on the airwaves, it is essential that we start developing a set of values with which everyone can concur. This is a question of leadership. A [810]core value must be the common good. We hear about it in other countries, but Ireland seems to have forgotten it. I concur with my colleague, Deputy Higgins, in that the greed that drove the country for the past ten or 12 years must be wiped out and replaced with a set of proper values, including valuing children, which we have not been doing.

In terms of children, one aspect that was handled well was the universal children’s allowance or, as it has become, child benefit. Last night, Deputy Tuffy outlined the benefit’s history and the importance of the concept of universality at the time of the benefit’s introduction, the concept that all children are equal and have a right to be given money that should not be used for any other purpose. This concept is at the core of what the Labour Party is trying to maintain in the context of this debate. Given the scandals of the Murphy and Ryan reports and the abuse of children, we have not valued children centrally. We have not given them a position in the Constitution, although it is now a priority for the Dáil. The concept of a universal payment for all children is central to the core value to which I referred.

Ireland has a great sense of solidarity, as was evident during the recent floods. I visited various communities in my constituency in which neighbour rallied around and supported neighbour. Anyone who listened to the airwaves this morning would have heard of the woman from the west who set up a website to allow people to help victims of flooding with things in kind and with kindness. She received a flood of responses from all over the country. It is not as if we are bad people or that we do not care about each other, but we do not have the necessary leadership in Government and public policy to put such matters at the heart of what we are about. It is a question of paying one’s fair share of tax and, in return, getting one’s fair share of public services that are available to all on the basis of need or, in this case, being a child. This concept is core to what the Labour Party has been about for a long time and people are crying out for a set of values that are similar to our proposal. People are looking for leadership so they can be proud to be Irish and be republicans in the true sense of that word.

The universal payment for children goes alongside what we believe to be a universal right to access to education and, on the basis of need rather than ability to pay, health care. During the so-called Celtic tiger years, such values were broken up and people were set against one another. There was a climate of greed in which the Seanies of this world were up on top and could do what they liked. They were protected within the taxation system and through the way in which business was done. We need to turn around this situation and start examining our values. We need to embrace the concept of the common good, particularly the good of children, who are society’s most vulnerable members. They need to be protected from poverty and exploitation. Statistics are available to show that families with children are more likely to suffer from poverty than other categories of family in this country. This is a core value. If it is taken apart in some way by the Government in next week’s budget, or during tonight’s vote, we will have cast aside part of what it means to be a Republic.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  I compliment Deputy Shortall on the motion she has brought before the House. It is particularly important as we approach next week’s budget. We need to consider carefully how we intend to create a fair and equitable society. We need to pay more than lip service to the idea that all our children are cherished properly. As we have just heard, the core values of pure republicanism need to be considered when we speak about the issue of universal payment. I suggest that the central issue is one of rights. When the early child care supplement is abolished next month, no form of State funding other than child benefit will be available to all families as a contribution towards the cost of raising children. Nothing else will be specifically targeted at the child. Every child needs to be cherished and recognised by the State, [811]regardless of the circumstances of the child’s parents. The availability of child benefit on the basis of means testing the parents does not take the child’s needs into account and therefore discriminates against the child. We have to look at this matter carefully from the point of view of the child, rather than from the perspective of the parents’ means. It is important that we approach the issue of child benefit from the position of the child and set aside the parents and any other consideration. It is a question of the basic human rights of the child. The State has paid lip service to the concept of cherishing the children of the nation equally far too often. It has considered everyone except the child.

Deputy O’Sullivan spoke about the Murphy report on child abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Earlier this year, the Ryan report on the abuse of children in industrial schools and reformatories demonstrated how poorly Ireland has protected, nurtured and cherished its children. When the House debated the issue of adoption last week, reference was made to the criticism by UNICEF of the manner in which Ireland conducts adoption proceedings with Vietnam. It has warned against further adoptions until the Hague Convention has been ratified in Irish law and appropriate structures have been put in place. We have not been good in our dealings with our own children or children from overseas. When we dealt with the trafficking of women and children the week before last, it was once more pointed out that the relevant international conventions have not been enacted in Ireland to ensure children are not trafficked into this country. All of this shows that we have not pursued the rights of the child in a proper fashion. The lack of a constitutional provision to uphold the rights of the child spells it all out. We have constitutional provisions on the rights of the family and adults, but the rights of the child are neglected in the Constitution. That area should be addressed.

The withdrawal of child benefit from any family would be a retrograde step for children’s rights and children’s welfare. Those who do not agree that child benefit should not be reduced argue that certain parents do not need child benefit. Of course there are very wealthy people like Mr. Smurfit and Mr. O’Reilly in this country. If we are really interested in organising society on a rights-based, fair and ethical fashion, we should use the taxation system to that end. We should tax those adults who can afford it, without interfering with the rights of children. The Labour Party has proposed the development of a third tier of taxation. A 48% rate of tax should apply to those who are well off. We should proceed in such a manner, rather than by taking from this sector of the population the one State provision that is available to it. Nothing else in the budget will be directly targeted at the child, as distinct from the family, adults, education or some other consideration. We should hold onto this universal core payment. It should not be reduced. We should not provide for the testing of income in this case. It should be maintained down the line. If we ensure child benefit is not reduced in the forthcoming budget, we will enhance the rights of the child.

Deputy Seán Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  I would like to quote from an academic analysis that suggests an additional unit of income earned or gained by a female is more likely to be spent on child care, or children’s clothing, than an additional unit of income earned or gained by a male. The report in question, The Kids are Alright: Who Benefits from Child Benefit? An Analysis Using Irish Data, which was published by Dr. David Madden in March 2000, states:

[812]The report continues:

Dr. Madden’s analysis refers to a report published in the UK, which shows how:

The Madden report continues:

Dr. Madden also refers to the 1994 Rottman report, which examined some of these issues. Although it relates to an original survey from 1987, I suggest that the same principles continue to apply. The report states:

He uses a sample of 625 households who were part of a follow-up to a major survey carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute in 1987. He finds that the source of income appears to be important from the point of view of sharing of resources. Households with income derived mainly from social welfare sources share about 33% of their income compared with an average of about 63% for other households. With regard to child benefit households appear to divide fairly evenly between those who use it for general household spending and those who use it for child specific goods. That breakdown is sensitive however to who controls the spending of child benefit. Where it is jointly controlled there is a significantly lower proportion spent on children’s goods as opposed to the case where the wife [I assume he means “partner”] controls child benefit. He also finds that when asked how a windfall increase of £20 per month in household income would be spent, 18% of wives listed children’s clothing as a priority as opposed to 10% of husbands.

A total of 18% of wives listed children’s clothing as a priority, as opposed to 10% of husbands. The fundamental point here is that this a payment to women for their children. It is used in households for children, is protected by women for their children and goes directly towards the welfare of children.

Although this study may be dated, I believe it stands the test of time. If the payment goes to women for the welfare of children, then there is a logical case for it to be preserved, as has already been elucidated by my colleagues. That is our central point.

[813]Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  I am fervently opposed to any cut in child benefit. One thing we can say about this Government is that it is consistent when it comes to cuts. I will give it that. It consistently expects the poor, the unemployed, pensioners and low-paid workers in the private and public sectors to bear the brunt of its plans to come out of an economic crisis. I shall return to the Government’s plan, if such exists.

  8 o’clock

The Government seems hell-bent on finding money in places where cuts will be most damaging while remaining intent on protecting the wealthy, the banks and developers. What does this tell us about the Government’s perception of what Irish society should be? It is shameful. The Government seems intent on adding to the inequality which grew during the Celtic tiger years. During the recession years it will increase that inequality and make those on low incomes and low pay who are struggling to make ends meet pay for the mistakes, the mismanagement and the bad planning of this and previous Fianna Fáil Governments and their friends, the developers.

The child benefit payment provides much needed support for parents who leave the workforce in order to care for their children. For those still working, it contributes to the crippling cost of child care fees. Child care costs in Ireland are far above the EU average. Irish families spend 20% of their income on full-time creche facilities, compared to 12% spent by families in the rest of Europe. Child care costs are so high that they are now out of reach of most people on low incomes and many of those on middle incomes. One must add to that the high costs of food, fuel and electricity prices in Ireland, the high cost of free education and the general high cost of living for those on or near the poverty line.

The impact of the proposals to cut child benefit will force many women, in particular, out of work and will leave women working in the home with less support. For families where women are now the main breadwinners, it will cause increased financial hardship, strain and stress on the family at a time when support is most needed. Families with massive mortgages will find the child benefit cut to be another setback as they try to manage to keep their heads above water. This is especially true for those families who, regrettably, have lost a job or two jobs, and are struggling to cope with the change from a time when they could afford the different services to now, when they are totally dependent on social welfare payments.

There are very few on the opposite side of the House, or, indeed, on this side, who have ever had to survive on social welfare payments alone. Very few of us in this House have been dependent for months or years on a social welfare payment. It is not something I ever wished on anybody but I wish that members of the Government would be made unemployed and that they had to suffer and live in poverty on the breadline for a number of months. I do not say that lightly because it is not something one would wish on another person. However, if a person were to live on social welfare, he or she might at least have some understanding of the consequences of cuts in social welfare payments and of leaving people for months and years dependent on social welfare, and the effects on their mindset, their children and the community in which they live.

That is exactly what is happening now. The Government has no plan in place to rescue from the dole queues the 420,000 people who are now unemployed. We have not seen a job creation package. The easiest way of dealing with the large social welfare bill facing the Exchequer is to make people employed again. That will not be done by cutting social welfare payments or reducing child benefit.

Let us not forget there have already been significant cuts in child benefit in the past two budgets. Now, in dire financial times, many people need help most and, by the looks of it, they are going to be most hit once again by the Government. Already in April, many of the families that will be targeted by this cut were targeted when they lost the Christmas bonus. That cut is [814]nothing short of Scrooge-like, removing the little top-up for those who are dependent. We must remember that it was only those people who are entirely dependent on social welfare who received the Christmas bonus. They will be the ones affected by the cut. There is no logic to this because, apart from those dependent on welfare, the people hit most will be the local businesses, shops and suppliers of fuel to the pensioners who will not get that payment. The Christmas bonus payment did not sit in a rich man’s or woman’s bank account but was spent immediately. It needed to be spent to bring a bit of festive cheer to many families, particularly children, but also to heat pensioners’ homes.

That is the small-mindedness of the Government. It does not understand the consequences and does not poverty-proof any of its actions. What it does is slash and burn. It does not care as long as the bankers and developers are not affected. It hits the people it sees as not having a voice. However, they have a voice in this House and that is why I support this motion. It gives a voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who will be affected by any cut in social welfare.

Orla O’Connor, head of policy for the National Women’s Council of Ireland, said: “At a time when it is reported that €300 million has been lost in the deal to save Anglo Irish Bank, the obsessive focus by the Government in cutting Child Benefit as if it was the only source of saving at this critical time is unacceptable”. It is unacceptable to target the poor in society now, or at any time. Those who have money must pay most. One taxes the rich, not the poor. I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Haughey, to bring the message home to the Minister for Finance and the rest of the Cabinet that this is unacceptable.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Deputy Seán Haughey): Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the Labour Party motion on the subject of child benefit and to sum up the arguments in favour of the Government’s counter-motion.

As the Minister for Social and Family Affairs highlighted last night, the improvements that have been made in both child income supports and child care provision in recent years have been unprecedented. Since 2000, we have increased the rates of child benefit from just €53.96 per month for the first and second child and from €71.11 per month for the third and any subsequent child to €166 and €203 per child, respectively. In the same period, expenditure on the scheme has grown from just €638 million to €2.5 billion per year. Improvements have been made in both the qualified child increase paid to welfare-dependent families and the family income supplement paid to low-income working parents. These improvements in funding for families have been supplemented by increased support for child care programmes, which are expected to create some 65,000 child care places when fully implemented. From next January, all children will be entitled to a free preschool year.

Child benefit is the main thrust of the motion. As a result of the increases of recent years, a family with four children now receives €738 per month, or €8,856 per year, in child benefit, regardless of how high the parents’ earnings are. The Government is proud to have been able to deliver such significant increases in payments to families when the resources were available. However, in the current economic environment, we simply cannot afford to keep spending at the same level as we did when our tax revenue was much higher. Failure to stabilise the public finances would jeopardise our ability to fund social services in the future and make circumstances worse for everyone, including welfare recipients, in the longer term. In that context, it is important to examine the €2.5 billion being spent on child benefit and to consider how savings might be made in this area.

The Commission on Taxation and the authors of the McCarthy report have made proposals on the child benefit programme. As the Minister for Social and Family Affairs stated last night, [815]in considering these and other options regarding changing the payment, the Government has been determined to find the fairest way of achieving savings while protecting those on low incomes as much as possible.

Let me touch on anti-fraud procedures for child benefit payments, as raised a number of times in the earlier part of this debate. Given the significant changes in the child benefit customer base and in the value of payments, the control policy for the child benefit scheme has been reviewed to ensure controls against fraud and abuse of the schemes continue to be effective and relevant. As a result of the review, enhanced and updated control measures have been devised.

In the case of non-Irish national recipients whose children are resident with them in Ireland, certification that the children continue to reside here is required. Such proof can be provided by showing details of the school or college the child attends or, if the child is not of school-going age, details of the doctor or crèche they attend.

In the case of EU nationals who are working in Ireland but who have qualifying children living in another EU state who are entitled to Irish family benefits under EU law, certification by their employer of continuing employment is requested. In either case, where the required certification is not provided within the specified timescale, the child benefit payment is suspended pending further inquiry and is ultimately terminated if confirmation of continued entitlement is not forthcoming.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Half the child benefit reviews have not been completed.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  A fraud and error strategy is also in place for returned forms.

Child benefit is currently paid to all families, not just to those on low incomes. We appreciate it is important to different families for different reasons. As the Minister assured the House last night, the Government has considered all the issues associated with child benefit very carefully and I have no doubt the budget announcement will reflect that.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  I wish to share time with Deputy Gilmore.

To make a correction, not a single person mentioned fraud in regard to child benefit. While the Minister of State did not write his speech, I make that point for the benefit of those who did.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  It is important to realise many of the Deputy’s constituents are talking about it.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Deputy should sit down and not be showing his arrogance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister should allow Deputy Lynch to continue.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  The Deputy is out of order.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  I ask the Deputy to have some respect.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  He should not show his arrogance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Please.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Half the inspections have not been carried out.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Deputy Stagg is the only arrogant one around here.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Deputy Haughey is showing his arrogance now.

[816]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Both sides of the House will have regard to the Chair and the Chair will not be ignored by anybody.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  It is important to make the point that nobody mentioned fraud with regard to child benefit. It is probably the only area where there should be no concern.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Everyone else is talking about it.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Some people in here would know more about fraud than others.

Despite the fact that I was not around in the 1920s and did not have a great deal of interest in pensions when I was a child, I used to hear my mother talking continuously about Ernest Blythe taking the shilling from old age pensioners. I am reliably told it was in the 1920s. If this Government cuts child benefit, as it intends, it will be remembered in the same vein. It is outrageous that the only support mechanism for children in homes should now be targeted by the Government, which gave tax reliefs to developers and landlords like snuff at a wake. The only people it can now think of targeting are the low paid and those with children to support.

The esteem in which the payment is held is demonstrated by the groups that support its retention. These include the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Children’s Rights Alliance, One Family, OPEN and Protest Against Child Unfriendly Budget, PACUB, which is an on-line support system that has attracted 16,000 members in a very short period. That says it all. The Government does not want to hear what the cut to the benefit means to families, including children.

This is probably the only country in Europe that does not recognise children in any way other than through a child benefit. It does not recognise them in the tax code or in terms of work or child care, despite what Government backbenchers are saying. The Government has actually saved money through the introduction of the free year of preschool education because parents do not get a child care supplement for their qualifying child up to the age of six.

The Government may rattle off all the figures it likes but should note the payment is only €38 per week per child. Any mother or father who provides for children every week knows it would not buy a pair of shoes. We all know this and that is why what I say is important. The benefit is part and parcel of what we do to provide for children.

When individualisation was introduced by Mr. Charlie McCreevy with razzmatazz we had never seen before and to his mantra “party on”, it forced women into the workforce. There was no further recognition for women in the home. The only recognition of their contribution in the home was child benefit, over which they had control and which they spent on their children.

Earlier in the debate, Deputy Mary O’Rourke hailed Fianna Fáil for introducing a mechanism in 1974 whereby child benefit was paid to the mother. Fianna Fáil did not introduce that policy. It was introduced by Frank Cluskey and Brendan Corish. At that time, those two men realised child benefit in the hands of men was not always handed over to women and the children suffered. Once again, the Government is discussing cutting the payment.

There are many people in the country who could do with a cut in terms of income or additional taxation, but children should not be affected. I find it amazing that when we discuss pensions in this country, we always refer to the fact our population is falling and we need to increase it because in the future we will need people to work in order to ensure pensions are paid. It is the current income of future workers which will be cut.

Children have no protection under the Constitution or the law. At a time when the Ryan and Murphy reports which referred specifically to crimes against children are in the public domain, the Government is talking about cutting the essential funding now going into homes. [817] The proposal will not be the first cut to child benefit. In the last budget the Government cut child benefit payments to the mothers of 18 year olds, who are still in school and whose parents have to support them on a low income. It is outrageous.

Of all the things this Government can cut, child benefit is not one of them. I wonder if the Government is building up a straw man in order to knock it down. If the Government hears groups of the calibre of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, One Family and other such groups telling it this proposal is not correct and that supporting families and children is the only way we will come through this crisis, that is something of which it must take notice.

Deputy Seán Haughey: Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  On a point of order, the record of the House will show two Deputies raised the issue of fraud during this debate.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That is not a point of order.

Deputy Kathleen Lynch: Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Thank God for his officials.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  I thank my colleague, Deputy Shortall, for tabling this motion and all the Members of the House who have contributed to the debate. In seven or eight minutes’ time we will vote on this motion. Let me be very clear. There is no obligation on any Government member or supporter of the House to vote against this motion.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  That is right.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Government Deputies will seek to justify voting against this motion on the grounds that they are obliged to support the Government position on it. The Government will not fall if the Labour Party motion is passed tonight. Our motion is simply calling on the Government not to touch child benefit in next week’s budget. It is a call and an appeal. The verb in the Labour Party motion, “calls”, is the same verb which is in the Government amendment. The Government amendment has a curious phrase which I have never seen before, that is, it “calls on the Government to consider the various options around Child Benefit and their implications for the needs of families with children”.

It is the first time I have seen a member of the Cabinet submit an amendment to a Private Members’ motion which calls on her own Government to do something. In this case, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Hanafin, is calling for some kind of consideration. She seems to think the Government is comparable to the ESRI and can spend some time considering the various options in terms of child benefit and the implications for the needs of families.

As an alternative, this House can call on the Government to not cut child benefit in the budget next week because family incomes have already taken a substantial hit in the last two budgets, Ireland is still a very expensive place to raise a child and child benefit is the only recognition by the State of this high cost, cutting child benefit will have a deflationary impact on the economy and any of the proposed reforms will create poverty traps, work disincentives, and will increase the numbers of children in poverty.

Let us not forget why we are here. We are debating the Government’s stated intention to take money from mothers and children in order to plug the hole it has blown in the public finances. We are here because Fianna Fáil brought us here. The same Deputies on Government benches, who now throw up their hands and say that cutting child benefit is the only way, are the very ones whose greed allowed our good economy to be turned into a property bubble.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Hear, hear.

[818]Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  The same men and women who have spent the past two nights patting themselves on the back for increasing child benefit over the past decade are the ones who have mortgaged our children’s future for decades to come, in the form of NAMA and robbing children to pay the banks.

They are looking to children and families to pay for the consequences of this economic crisis but they are very silent on its causes. In this, they are sadly aided by the Green Party, a party ostensibly so committed to children that it put them at the heart of its election campaign in 2007. Where are those values now? I do not recall any proposal being put to the Green Party conference which required a two thirds majority to cut child benefit. It was not in the revised programme for Government. There is no obligation under the revised programme for Government for it to support this measure.

The Government has focused on its role in increasing child benefit payments to families in the past. However, this motion is not about the past. Rather, it is about the effect of a cut in child benefit payments will have on families and children now and into the future. The cut in child benefit is coming on top of a significant reduction in family incomes over the past twelve months. Families have already been hit with a reduction in mortgage interest relief, the cutting of child benefit for 18 year olds, a large increase in school transport costs, the halving of the early childcare supplement, which will be abolished from January and income levies. For the 150,000 people who have joined the live register since this time last year, child benefit is often a lifeline which helps keep food on the table and the house warm, even if one parent still has a job.

Since the emergency budget in April I have received hundreds of letters, many from concerned mothers who say that between the income levies and the pension levy for public servants they are barely able to make ends meet. For young parents with large mortgages and high child care costs, a cut in child benefit will create a genuine crisis.

The Government has indicated it favours a three-tiered system for child benefit, comprising those on social welfare and low incomes, those who are very well-off and who identify themselves as such to the Revenue Commissioners and those in the middle. This is a deeply flawed and fundamentally unfair proposal. First, making child benefit conditional on receiving social welfare or the family income supplement will act as yet another poverty trap, where it costs people money to move into paid work. Second, it is risible that the Government, which has consistently facilitated tax avoidance by the super-rich, should propose to rely on those same wealthy people putting their hands up and handing back their child benefit. We all know who is going to bear the brunt of any cut in child welfare. It will be those in the middle, namely, PAYE workers who pay for everything and who receive little for it who will bear the brunt.

One can only tap the same source for so long before it runs dry. Child benefit is not, as some would characterise it, a contribution towards the luxuries of life. For the overwhelming majority it is money which parents count on to pay for child care, for trips to the doctor, for food and clothing for their children. For tens of thousands of families in this recession it is a crucial source of household income which just about keeps them afloat.

Fianna Fáil congratulates itself on the generosity of the child benefit payment, but it must be seen in context. Child benefit is the Swiss knife of the social welfare system. It is supposed to compensate for the fact that Ireland’s tax code does not recognise the cost of bringing up children, to address child poverty, to make up for the lack of affordable child care or the fact that Ireland, almost uniquely in the European Union, does not have a universal pre-school system. It is meant to compensate for the absence of free medical care for children.

No welfare payment, however generous, could achieve all of these objectives. It requires the vision to invest in an affordable, national child care system. It requires the courage to introduce [819]universal health insurance for children, as the Labour Party has proposed since 2002. In short, it requires a value system which works the well-being of children and families into the permanent structures of our society and State.

There is, however, little evidence of such values in the policies being pursued by this Government. Ministers never miss an opportunity to remind people that they increased social welfare rates during the good years. However, now that the good years are over they tell us they can no longer afford these payments. The Government’s policy now appears to be Fianna Fáil giveth and Fianna Fáil taketh away, but the people’s answer to that in the course of time may well be that the people giveth and the people taketh away.

Amendment put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 78; Níl, 74.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby. Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine.
Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas.
Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall. Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret.
Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M. J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt.
Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward. Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary.
Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy. Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán. Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick.
Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary.
Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.



Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán. Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine.
Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe. Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour. Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael.
Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda. Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  D’Arcy, Michael.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Zoom on George Lee  Lee, George. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic.
Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P. J. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.

Amendment declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 78; Níl, 74.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby. Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine.
Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian. Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny.
Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John. Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas.
Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara. Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat.
Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall. Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret.
Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán. Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary.
Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John. Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán.
Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin. Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John.
Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel. Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank.
Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael. Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán. Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter. Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan.
Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael. Information on Tony Killeen  Zoom on Tony Killeen  Killeen, Tony.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom.
Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian. Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor.
Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael. Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M.J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Willie O'Dea  Zoom on Willie O'Dea  O’Dea, Willie. Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  O’Donoghue, John.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt.
Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward. Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary.
Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy. Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter.
Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán. Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick.
Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon. Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor.
Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel. Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary.
Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra. Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.



Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  Barrett, Seán. Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe.
Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine.
Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe. Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul. Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour. Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael.
Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda. Information on Michael D'Arcy  Zoom on Michael D'Arcy  D’Arcy, Michael.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy.
Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Zoom on George Lee  Lee, George. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic.
Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P.J. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.

Question declared carried.


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