Coming from a mother, who just last month was named Ireland’s Carer of the Year, it is a damning indictment of a budget that was strongly defended by Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday.
Anne described how her family will be hit by the savagery of the welfare cuts announced by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.
“I cannot even think about Christmas. It’s the last thing on my mind at the moment,” said Anne, a mother-of-four who has endured more than most in her life to date.
Anne and her husband, Jimmy, who live in Mullinahone in south Tipperary, lost their second child, David, at the age of one in 1989 to the neurological disorder, Canavan’s Disease. A decade later twins Mark and Tamara were born and then diagnosed with the same disease. Mark died three years ago at age six.
Anne’s devotion to 10-year-old Tamara was recognised last month when she was named Ireland’s Carer of the Year 2010.
“It was wonderful to be recognised,” says Anne, “but it seems a long time ago now.”
Anne revealed how her family will lose around €40 a week as a result of Tuesday’s budget, a huge drop for a family already stretched to the limits.
“All Jimmy and I can think of is how to make ends meet,” she said.
Jimmy is on a Fás employment scheme, as caretaker of Mullinahone community centre and, even before the budget, he was paid only €24 a week more than he would get on social welfare. Now that amount is being slashed by a further €8.
Among their four surviving children, the eldest, Jamie, 25, is an unemployed carpenter whose dole will be cut by €8 while daughter Lydia, 21, faces unemployment in the new year.
“She is a special care assistant at Mullinahone national school,” explains Jimmy. “But she is only filling in for someone on maternity leave and that is due to end in February. In any case, she hasn’t been paid for the past week or more because of the weather which closed the school and, as a ‘temp’, she doesn’t get paid when she can’t work.”
Their youngest son, Andrew, 17, has just left secondary school after his Leaving Cert and is hoping to work with computers, but the employment prospects are bleak.
As well as that, they face a cut in child benefit of a further €10 a month; not an enormous sum in itself but, as Anne says, “every little hurts”.
Approaching Christmas last year, the McGraths felt things could hardly get worse, financially.
“Last year they did away with the Christmas bonus and that used to mean about €490 for Anne and myself,” says Jimmy. “That was a huge drawback and with these latest cuts, we really don’t know what’s to become of us.”
The family’s weekly expenses are considerable. With mortgage repayments of €700 a month, they also have high heating costs because of Tamara’s ailment.
“We were hoping they would not touch the carer’s allowance,” says Anne, “but the politicians don’t care about people. All they think about is lining their own pockets.”
Already the McGraths’ eldest children are considering going abroad for work.
“It’s the last thing we want. No parent wants to see their child emigrate,” says Anne, “but there is nothing for them here.”