A Dublin deputy has quit the Labor Party in protest at its support for the Austerity Budget – just six weeks after he was elected to Brian Lenihan’s former seat.
Patrick Nulty was acclaimed as a hero by party leaders Eamon Gilmore and Joan Bruton when he won the Dublin West by-election at the end of October.
But Nulty refused to vote in the favour of the first Fine Gael-Labor coalition budget after branding it ‘unjust’.
He was then expelled from the very party who lauded him after the election but insisted he couldn’t support cuts to disability allowances, fuel allowances and child care in the Budget.
Nulty is the third Labour TD out of 38 to have lost the Labour Party whip since they took office nine months ago and follows in the footsteps of Willie Penrose and Tommy Broughan.
“It is profoundly unfair,” said Nulty as he justified his stance. “The poor, the old and the sick have suffered enough. That has to stop, and I will be voting against measures which undermine their living conditions.
“One of the principal reasons I voted against the budget were the cuts announced in allowances for younger people with disabilities.
“I don’t think anybody was elected on the basis of reducing fuel allowance, or of cutting disability payment.”
Fine Gael TDs Joe McHugh, Damien English, Simon Harris and Kieran O’Donnell have also voiced criticism of the cuts affecting the disabled.
The four have arranged a meeting with Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to seek a reversal of the more punitive elements of the cuts.
Minster for Finance Michael Noonan also admitted that the cuts to the allowances for younger people with disabilities may need to be re-examined.
Noonan said: “I think it’s worth looking again in the social welfare bill.”
One anonymous Fine Gael deputy said: “Taking €88 of disability allowance each week from people who will never work, like those with cerebral palsy, those with autism and those with severe Down syndrome is very unfair. They should never ever be included in this.”
After a meeting of 16 deputies, one Labour TD added: “There was a lot of disquiet among Deputies and Senators that the measure was going to cause unnecessary pain.
“We need to be a fair Government and not target the vulnerable. We want to move beyond words and make it happen. We are confident that the Cabinet and the Minister will see fit to make it.”