Opposition deputies in Limerick strongly critical of Budget measures

OPPOSITION TDs in Limerick have strongly criticised the Budget measures announced yesterday by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

OPPOSITION TDs in Limerick have strongly criticised the Budget measures announced yesterday by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

Fine Gael's finance spokesman Michael Noonan described it as that "of a puppet government who are being what they are being told to do by the IMF, the EU Commission and the European Central Bank."

"In an ironic way, this budget is a fitting tribute to this administration. Fianna Fail are like Bourbons: they have learnt nothing and are determined to continue the mistakes they made in their last budget.

"This government's policies have wrecked the economy, and destroyed confidence in Ireland," the Limerick TD added, pointing out that the bill is "flawed" because "there is nothing there to get the economy flowing again."

Labour's Deputy Jan O'Sullivan has said the budget was "easy on the rich and targeting the poor."

"I can see very little pain for people at the top. We recommended a high rate of tax for people earning €200,000.

"This hasn't happened. Even the pension measures the government has brought in is not really affecting people who have put away large sums of money.

"I believe in times like this, we should make the choice to take from those who cannot afford to pay."

The controversial travel tax, which has devastated footfall at Shannon Airport, is to be reduced by almost two-thirds from next March.

Announcing the 2011 budget yesterday, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said the government had agreed to cut the departure tax from €10 to €3.

Elsewhere in what was overall a swingeing budget designed to shave €6bn off the public finances, the government has announced the provision of €172m towards major social projects, including Limerick Regeneration.

Meanwhile, Limerick's local authorities are facing a nervous wait to discover how much of a cut they will have to bear, after the local government fund was slashed by €62m.

The more than 20,000 people across Limerick who are out of work will, as expected, see their social welfare payments drop by between €6 and €8 per week. However, those earning the reduced minimum wage €7.65 per hour will not be brought into the heightened tax bands announced by the government.

Income and health levies are to be replaced by a single universal social charge, while child benefit will be cut by 10 per cent.

Asked about the cut in the travel tax, Deputy O'Sullivan said: "I think this is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. When it was introduced, Ryanair used this as an excuse to cut flights from Shannon. It's too late to change that now."

Padraig Malone, the manager of the Limerick Centre for the Unemployed, slammed the government on its cut to the social welfare payments, suggesting there is an "ideology" to punish.

"It's just ridiculous in this day and age that anyone can expect a single person to get by on €188 per week. The social welfare rates in Ireland are not abnormally high as they make out they are. Now they want to bring them back to levels of ten years ago. We are going backwards," he said.