Deputy Anthony Lawlor: This is one of the most difficult budgets ever announced in this House. My party is associated with Richie Ryan and the budget that he brought forward in the mid-1970s. The Cabinet of the time also took difficult decisions which were supported by Fine Gael and Labour Party backbenchers. I commend the Minister for Social Protection on the hard decisions that she took regarding social protection. Not long ago the media reported plans to cut €540 million from the social protection budget. Opposition Members were roaring and shouting about these cuts. We are fortunate that the reduction will only be €390 million, although that in itself will be difficult to achieve. In 2007, when Deputy Cowen’s brother was Minister for Finance, the Government gave away everything. The then Minister increased all core payments by between 10% and 15%. In 2009 the budget deficit had grown to €25 billion and all core payments were cut. It is difficult to take Fianna Fáil Members seriously when they supported a series of savage cuts in 2009.
Deputy Stanley acknowledged that all budgets are difficult. His party recently presided over a difficult budget in the North of Ireland which involved the closure of PSNI stations and schools but it claims the right to stand here and make hypocritical statements about the tough decisions we are taking in government.
Deputy Michael Colreavy: On a point of order —–
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Lawlor only has one and a half minutes left.
Deputy Anthony Lawlor: May I continue? I will lose time as a result of this interruption.
Deputy Michael Colreavy: May I make a point of order?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Briefly. I will allow Deputy Lawlor more time.
Deputy Michael Colreavy: I have already advised the House that a block grant comes from Westminster for the Six Counties. Sinn Féin has no influence on that.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is not a point of order.
Deputy Anthony Lawlor: Deputy Stanley also spoke about a united Ireland, which many of us would welcome. However, would the rate of carer’s allowance be the €72 paid across the Border or the more than €200 paid down here?
Deputy Anthony Lawlor: It is unfortunate that when we have promised not to cut core payments, cuts must be made in other areas to make savings. One of the cuts I find difficult to accept is the cut to the respite care grant and I have made a number of suggestions to Ministers with regard to how we could raise revenue elsewhere or make other savings. In my home town, Peter Riordan has been named carer of the year. He cares for his two sons and he cared for his wife. It will be difficult for me to face him on this, but I will face him and I will be honest and let him know what I have tried to do and what I hope to do with regard to respite care grants.
I will support the Government on this budget. We must make hard decisions and I am not afraid to make those decisions, so that even if I do not retain my seat in four years time, I will have left the country with a better legacy and in a better position than the one we inherited.