Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Child Benefit: Motion (Resumed)
Michael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this motion and am glad the Labour Party has tabled it. I also am pleased with the position of my party, Fine Gael and that of Deputy Kenny in respect of child benefit. It is important to spell out clearly that Fine Gael and the Labour Party are committed to women. I wish to repeat a point I have made in the House previously, which is that child benefit is the only payment that is paid to women. Like the Leas-Cheann Comhairle and other Members, I hold clinics on a regular basis and I cannot count the number of times over the years that my constituency office has been visited by women who were married to rich and mean men. I refer to men who one would think were wealthy and would be good to their wives and families. However, such men were mean and would not give their wives any of their incomes or additional money to look after their children. The payment of child benefit has kept many women alive and has provided them with a small degree of independence. If Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Independent Members attack women in this budget, I can forecast the outcome. One should not anger women because when they unite, fight and come together, they will make the Government pay and will make it realise it has made a major mistake. I assure Members the women of Ireland will organise if the Government attacks child benefit in the forthcoming budget.
The family and children are still important in Ireland. Over the past year in particular, as the reports regarding the protection of children have emerged, it is clear the State failed to protect the most vulnerable children. At least child benefit still remains to protect them at present. Many women have put that money away to have additional money for Christmas, for an additional pair of shoes, for school books or to educate their children in the future. The biggest single mistake that Fianna Fáil and the Government could make would be to tamper in any way with child benefit in the forthcoming budget.
I have heard the argument about the rich, the middle classes and the poor and how the benefit should be targeted at those who need it most. The people who need it most are small children. Moreover, the people who are being described as being well off pay their taxes and their dues and get very little from the State. In some cases, this benefit is the only income they receive from the State, although they are obliged to make payments continually. They pay their mortgages or rents and in some cases are not entitled to medical cards. They are caught in every situation and constitute the new poor. I refer in particular to middle class people who are obliged to pay for everything and whose only benefit from the State is child benefit.
I acknowledge the Minister of State, Deputy Áine Brady, is a new and young Minister. I hope her period of office will continue for another few months before my party takes over. I am glad she has had her little run-----