ENTERTAINMENT spending by Government departments has reached €1.2 million this year while cutbacks are being imposed on the most vulnerable, according to Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny.
He told the Dáil that the Government has “lost its compassion” because of cuts in respite and home help for carers of people with intellectual disabilities.
Mr Kenny said homes for people with these disabilities are being “savaged” by cuts and carers had made a “cry for help” in yesterday’s Irish Examiner.
The Government could have found savings elsewhere but went for the “soft touch”, he said.
During Leaders’ Questions, he told the Taoiseach: “You’ve chosen to increase the entertainment budget in government departments up by 66% this year to €1.2m for clinking of glasses – €289,000 in your own department.
“The travel budget in Government departments is up by €2.4m this year, would that not provide these services and allow these places to remain open?
“You’ve chosen not to make any redundancies in the HSE corporate bodies despite the fact that the chief executive told my own party there were at least 2,500,” he said. “Shame on you and shame on your Government.”
Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, accused Mr Kenny of “trying to scare” the 25,000 people receiving such services that they would lose them and that “no such decisions has been made”.
“It is not acceptable to me or to this government that respite services will be cut. It will not happen as far as I am concerned,” he said.
“There are discussions today and tomorrow with ministers and the providers of these services to find the efficiencies and the savings that can be found without affecting front line services in the way that has been suggested,” he said.
However Labour leader, Eamon Gilmore, said the protesters against the cuts outside the Dáil yesterday “haven’t dreamed this up, they are not imagining it”.
He said whatever the Taoiseach may claim, “there have been cuts.”
Mr Gilmore said: “Bawnmore in Limerick is closed, the facility on the Navan Road is closed, Galway has been threatened with closure or certainly cutbacks in the services being provided. Last Friday, the service providers all got letters informing them of the cutbacks that are taking place.”
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