FIANNA Fail deputy Willie O’Dea has criticised the Government for what he described as a “cynical sleight of hand” on the issue of special Holy Communion and Confirmation payments to families.
The department of social protection has confirmed that families will not receive Government grants to assist with the cost of Holy Communions this year.
Last year the department cut the allowance in a move which Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said was intended to limit “lavish” expenditure.
In 2011 the Government paid more than €3.4 million in communion and confirmation grants to over 14,000 families, while in 2012 payments were cut back to €1.5 million for 12,500 families.
Deputy O’Dea has criticised the Government for not giving families enough time to plan for the impact of this cut.
“Instead, they wait until the eve of many such events around the country and then state that the exceptional needs payment scheme will continue, but that it will not include expenditure for religious events. Not for the first time, Minister Burton and her Government are being completely disingenuous.
“When Minister Burton was reminded of the fact that these additional payments were introduced in response to a real problem of vulnerable families resorting to loan sharks to pay for these family events, she dismissed the problem and replied that there were many garments available at ‘very attractive prices’.”
Deputy O’Dea said his party would encourage more schools to insist that Holy Communion ceremonies take place in school uniforms to help take pressure off families. He said for families already struggling religious events like Holy Communion “pose a very real and very stressful dilemma”.