Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Social Protection and Social Equality Willie O’Dea has said the most vulnerable in society are suffering as a result of the budget cuts implemented by Fine Gael and Labour.

Commenting today Deputy O’Dea said: “The disproportionate cut in the telephone rent allowance to the tune of 60% and the 10% cuts in the ESB allowance are just two examples of the unnecessary cuts made by this Government.  Indeed Minister Joan Burton has singularly failed to bring about meaningful reform in her department and required a massive supplementary estimate on the eve of the budget.

“The budgetary constraints faced by this government were fully known to Fine Gael and Labour before they made their promises to the people.  Every one of the welfare cuts imposed in this Budget could have been avoided if the proposal to target the highest income earners had been adopted.  Instead Fine Gael insisted that social welfare must feel the pain and Minister Burton went about designing a set of cuts which is deeply mean-spirited.

“Families with children have been singled out for major cuts in their income.  Our elderly and vulnerable people living in communities are living in the cold with the fuel allowance cut from a payment over 32 weeks to 26.  There are people in communities choosing between having a light on or a heater.  What has happened to the government’s promise to bring forward a fuel poverty policy for older people?  These cuts in isolation don’t seem severe but it is the total impact of these decisions that have to be looked at.  If you take rural communities for example between garda stations closures, post offices under threat and local bank branches closing there is increased isolation for these communities.

“Today the conscience of the Labour Party in government is justifying cuts which are dramatically more severe than what they previously opposed and they are being targeted against the most vulnerable.  Far from protecting communities Minister Burton is helping to lead the charge and impose unnecessary and mean-spirited cuts,” concluded Deputy O’Dea.