As the country reels from Tuesday's bombshell budget, newly elected T.D., Pearse Doherty has delivered a stinging rebuke of its content and described it as a "full-frontal" attack on low income earners and the unemployed.
In a hard hitting address in the Dail after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had announced details of one of the harshest budgets on record, the Donegal South-West representative stood up to lambast Government policy and what he called "economic sabotage."
Describing the budget as an "absolute disgrace", the Sinn Fein Deputy told the Minister: "You told us last year that the 'worst was over'. Now we hear that low and middle-income families are to be hit with more punitive taxation increases and spending cuts.
"You tell us that there is hope. The only hope I see is the calling of a General Election. You are sparse on the details on cuts in your speech here today, Minister, but we can see in the documentation what these cuts are and we will see them starkly in the year ahead," Deputy Doherty declared.
Highlighting the range of austere measures announced in the budget including an €8 euro reduction for dole recipients, €10 reduction in child benefit, €180 less in tax credits, an increase in the price of petrol and diesel, the phasing out of rent relief, maternity benefit and adoptive benefit cuts, €9 million in cuts for Community development projects, 5% reduction in capitation fees for
tudent services, reduction in student supports grants, and €746 million
from the health budget in addition to free legal aid cuts, the Sinn Fein T.D. claimed it was all to pay for a "failed" banking strategy.
"The policy behind this budget is not only morally wrong - it is economic sabotage."
Stating that the Minister and his Government were "prolonging the cycle of recession", the Donegal Deputy blasted: "I don't know how you have the neck to even present a budget. Your government has failed the people of Ireland. You have given away our sovereignty in much the same way your colleagues gave away our natural resources in the 80s.
"You have brought the IMF and the EU to our shores. They are here to help this government to protect foreign banks and bondholders. They are here
for the Irish people's tax euros, not to protect us."
Added the S.F. spokesman on finance: "What is absolutely disgusting is that when the whole country is screaming for political reform, the government is relying on the votes of two gombeen politicians demanding pet projects for their own backyard to get this budget passed. There is no room for this type of politics in Ireland anymore. We can't afford it."
Insisting that the public wouldn't take the budget on the chin, Deputy Doherty said: "They have forced you to call an election early, though you would have clung onto power with your fingernails for longer.They gave their assessment of your economic plans in the Donegal by-election. They will give their assessment again in the new year."
General reaction throughout the county to the austerity measures announced by Minister Lenihan have been critical but Fianna Fail Senator, Brian 'Domhnaill, described it as a budget for "jobs, growth and stability".
"The package of measures we have announced reflects the Government's determination to stimulate the jobs market. Getting people back to work remains our top priority," he insisted.
Budget 2011 included, he added, a number of initiatives to keep those who were unemployed close to the work force. "This means they will be in a position to take up jobs which arise as the economy recovers."
"5,000 additional places will be provided in the private sector under the Skills Development and Internship Programme while the public service will get an extra 5, 000 places under the Work Placement Programme. A further 5,000 positions will be provided in community and voluntary sector under the Community Work Placement Scheme."
The Fianna Fail Senator, who lost out in a bid to win a Dail seat in the recent Donegal South-West by-election, said by investing in local jobs and reducing the deficit, the Budget would go a long way towards boosting the economy of Donegal and the entire country.