Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to reverse the 20% reduction in the carer’s respite grant despite pleas from the opposition benches to heed the impassioned appeal of a husband caring for his ill wife to leave the grant alone.
Mr Kenny defended the cut, saying it was better than cutting pensions or the full-time carer’s allowances.
The Taoiseach faced questions in the Dáil following an impassioned letter from Pat O’Mahony about caring for his wife Margaret, a polio survivor, in the Irish Examiner yesterday.
The 53-year-old said he has been acting as his wife’s hands and legs caring for her since polio robbed the mother-of-four of her ability to lead a normal life.
Mr O’Mahony offered to trade places with Mr Kenny, and said the Taoiseach “did not give a fiddler’s” about the cut.
Mr Kenny did not say whether he would respond to the letter, but defended the budget cuts.
“All of those people who are on social protection, are unemployed, or low paid, will never have the opportunity to have a better lifestyle and better opportunities unless we deal with the central structural faults in our economy,” said Mr Kenny. “The reduction in the respite care grant will not be reversed.”
Mr Kenny said the Government had made the decision not to cut the old-age pension, the travel allowance, or the free fuel allowance, or to interfere in any way with the carer’s allowance or home care packages in the budget.
“I know many Pat O’Mahonys who look after their kith and kin,” said Mr Kenny. “I have spoken to many of these people and I know it is a draining experience.”
However, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams claimed Mr O’Mahony was right in saying the Taoiseach did “not give a fiddler’s”, and questioned why ministerial pay or bankers’ pensions were not reduced instead.
Mr Kenny said: “I feel for Mr O’Mahony and his wife Margaret, but the carer’s package and the home care package are untouched.”
Earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he believed Coalition TDs wanted the respite care cut reversed. Speaking to RTÉ, he said that many people would empathise with Mr O’Mahony and his family after reading the “heart- rending letter”.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved