Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection, Willie O’Dea TD, has criticised the Government for what he described as a cynical sleight of hand on the issue of special Holy Communion and Confirmation payments to vulnerable families.
Deputy O’Dea commented: “If the Government had been honest in the first instance, making it clear that these payments were to stop, the families that genuinely rely on them may have had the opportunity to plan for the impact. Instead, they wait until the eve of many such events around the country and then state that the exceptional needs payment scheme will continue, but that it will not include expenditure for religious events. Not for the first time, Minister Burton and her Government are being completely disingenuous.
“When Minister Burton was reminded of the fact that these additional payments were introduced in response to a real problem of vulnerable families resorting to loan sharks to pay for these family events, she dismissed the problem and replied that there were many garments available at ‘very attractive prices’.
“Fianna Fáil has no interest in defending lavish spending by families on religious events and in fact we would encourage more schools to insist that Holy Communion ceremonies take place in school uniforms to help take pressure off families. However, Minister Burton’s comments betray an aloofness and disconnect from the reality of life for a minority of very vulnerable families. For a mother who is having to choose between heating and eating, religious events like Holy Communion and Confirmation pose a very real and very stressful dilemma. Clothing may appear ‘attractively priced’ to someone in Minister Burton’s position, but it is still out of the reach of these families.
“It may come as a shock to this new Labour Party, but the reality is that families in this scenario will not simply allow their child to be left out and will resort to the only option they feel remains available to them – loan sharks – who ask no questions and demand extortionate interest rates.
“Over recent weeks, Labour Ministers have been wringing their hands in public, trying to convince us that it has, in fact, a constructive role to play. Minister Burton could boost those efforts in a real and meaningful way by reversing this decision immediately.”