The Government is paving the way for yet another major u-turn after the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton refused to commit to maintaining Social Welfare rates as promised in the Programme for Government, according to Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen.


Deputy Cowen said, “I asked Minister Burton three times in the Dáil yesterday if she could stand by the Fine Gael/Labour Government’s promise to maintain social welfare rates. But the Minister repeatedly refused to answer this simple question and made every attempt to fudge the issue.


“Instead of standing by her Government’s pledge, Minister Burton would only say today that “the appropriate level of overall expenditure by my Department will be considered in the context of Budget 2012.” This is despite a clear promise made in the Programme for Government that they “will maintain social welfare rates.”


“Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a litany of promises that the Fine Gael/Labour Government have rowed back on during their first 100 days in office. We have already seen immense public concern about Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s refusal to rule out hikes in income tax, Education Minister Ruairí Quinn’s u-turn on college fees, and confusion over extra household and water charges next year. 


“Minister Burton has herself already rowed back on protecting child benefit, again refusing to make any commitment when questioned in the Dáil. That’s despite her party leader Eamon Gilmore identifying child benefit as a ‘red line issue’ during the general election campaign. On top of this, we now have added uncertainty over the security of social welfare rates.


“These issues affect every single family in the country, and each of them represents a key promise made by Fine Gael and Labour during the general election campaign in a bid to win votes. Now that they are in Government, they are only too willing to forget these promises. I am calling on Minister Joan Burton to clearly state to the public where she and her Labour party colleagues stand on the protection of social welfare rates.”