Fianna Fáil TD for Louth, Séamus Kirk, says the Labour party breaking its cynical pre-election pledge not to cut Child Benefit proves that they are out of touch with reality.

Deputy Kirk was speaking after the 2012 Social Welfare Bill was rushed through the Dáil this week to suppress debate on the hugely unfair cuts it makes.

Deputy Kirk stated: “Fianna Fáil is totally opposed to this bill. Budget 2013 places a deeply unfair financial burden on countless families across the country while whittling away the social safety net to a bare thread. Mothers in particular are unfairly targeted by the cuts which hammered Child Benefit; workers are being hit by the regressive PRSI Tax hike and frontline carers undermined by a callous cut to the Respite Care Grant.

“The cuts to Child Benefit and Back to School Allowance along with the failure to live up to Minister Burton’s promise to introduce a Scandinavian style child care system severely penalises mothers.

“The cut to Child Benefit is also a direct break with Labour’s pre-election pledge to maintain the payment which Eamon Gilmore held up as a pre-condition of going into government with Fine Gael. The cynical betrayal of their promise to the electorate exposes the vacuum that Labour represents in government and leaves ordinary mothers to pay the price.

“Core social welfare payments have been cut through the back door. The reduction in the eligibility time for Job Seekers Benefit is simply a 25% cut for those claiming it over that time.

“The Respite Care Grant reduction is also a hammer blow to carers working on the frontline with people who require constant help. These carers perform a vital social duty and actually save the state four times what they cost, but they are now being penalised for their work.

“The Budget is unfair, anti-woman and counterproductive. Gone are election promises by both Fine Gael and Labour. This budget is one of the harshest that I have seen during my time as a TD and I am disappointed with lack of fairness in the document.

“The Program for Government stated that “We will maintain social welfare rates” and Minister Burton recently re-stated her commitment to protecting “core” rates. Yet the definition of “core” has obviously no real meaning for the government if they hit child benefit, an essential payment for hundreds of thousands of families. Despite our current economic problems, Ireland remains a very expensive place to raise a child, and Child Benefit is the only recognition by the State of this high cost. Cutting this will create poverty traps, work disincentives, and will substantially increase the already high number of children in poverty.”