Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath Deputy Peter Burke.
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath Deputy Peter Burke has accused Fianna Fáil of ‘opportunistic and populist’ antics ahead of the announcement of the Budget 2017.
Welcoming the increases from March to all those in receipt social welfare payments, Deputy Burke said he is happy that his party held firm against the Fianna Fáil calls to only increase payments to pensioners from January.
He explained, “The €5 increase for carers, for those on disability, on invalidity payments, the blind pension, widows and widowers pension is a very positive step, and although it is a small amount, it is something we can build on as the economy continues to grow - appoximately10,000 people will benefit from this in Longford Westmeath alone.
“Those in receipt of these payments are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and had their entitlements cut by €16 in two consecutive budgets under Fianna Fáil in 2009 and 2010.”
Deputy Burke continued, “I found it extremely opportunistic and populist for Fianna Fáil to single out pensioners for a targeted increase in the budget and circulate this demand widely in the media.
“Fine Gael as a party were united in the view that if there is going be an increase in the weekly pension, there also has to be an increase for other groups who get a weekly welfare payment like the carers, the disabled, the blind, the widows, guardians of orphans, people on invalidity and illness benefits. I felt in particular that carers could not be overlooked, along with many others.”
Deputy Burke said he couldn’t understand how Fianna Fáil chose to bat for one particular group, to the detriment of the others.
“It was vitally important that pensioners get the increase that they deserve and I know many pensioners are struggling, but I also feel like we owe it to all the other groups to represent their needs too. Did Fianna Fáil not feel it was justified to give the carers or the blind pensioners a rise on the current rate?”
He pointed out, “Budgeting analysis conducted by Minister Varadkar, his Department and the Department of Finance judged that the State could afford to give a modest increase to all groups if we waited two months until March. It is unfortunate that it could not be granted in January, but we must ensure we employ prudent budgeting so we do not return to savage budget cuts as witnessed from 2008. This approach also means that a lot more people will benefit from weekly increases.”
Deputy Burke concluded, “I am confident as the economy continues to grow under Fine Gael, more increases can be given to those who need it most in future budgets, but this has to be done in a measured and calculated way. We cannot go back to giveaway budgets, as seen in 2004, 2005 and 2006 which led us to the financial collapse, the consequences of which we are still paying for today. We cannot achieve all we want to in one year, but we are using the benefits of a strong economy to improve people’s lives and I continue to work hard in both the Dáil and the constituency to represent the needs of Longford and Mullingar.”