The Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin has sparked further concerns about a Labour u-turn on protecting social welfare rates after he flip-flopped on the issue on the national airwaves this morning, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection Barry Cowen.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast today, Minister Howlin said: “The social welfare rates will be protected as far as we can…”
Deputy Cowen commented, “Minister Howlin’s comments have just added to the confusion over Labour’s stance on social welfare cuts. Speaking on Newstalk this morning, the Minister slipped in the ultimate get-out clause, saying Labour will only stick to their own policy ‘if they can’.
“His attempts to back-pedal on this were laughable. His Party Leader has already attempted to appease Labour backbenchers by ruling out social welfare cuts last month. Just a day beforehand, the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton repeatedly refused to state that she remains committed to her Government’s pledge to maintain social welfare rates.
“Minister Howlin was also asked about the protection of child benefit payments on Newstalk this morning. He said: “We’ve made no decisions at all yet….I’ve asked for everything to be on the table.” This is despite the fact that during the general election campaign the now Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore identified child benefit as a “red line” issue. Labour’s “Every Little Hurts” advertising campaign lambasted Fine Gael for their proposed cuts in the child benefit rates.
“Fine Gael and Labour must realise that flip-flopping on such fundamental issues as welfare rates and taxes only causes great distress to the millions of people affected. It undermines the certainty that’s needed to encourage people to start spending again and further delays the recovery.  It is time for the Government parties to admit that they made cynical election promises, and to come clean with the public about what is coming down the road.”