Bluff and bluster and public image

Laois Senator John Whelan and TD Brian Stanley swapped jibes last week over which of them is more concerned about taxes and cuts.

Laois Senator John Whelan and TD Brian Stanley swapped jibes last week over which of them is more concerned about taxes and cuts.

The Labour senator demanded a debate with the Sinn Féin TD to hear why his party voted against the Finance Bill that included a 1 percent cut to the top rate of income tax.

“Dep Stanley and his colleagues voted against taking 80,000 of the lowest earner out of the USC net, against cutting USC for other low-income earners, and against an increase in the USC for people earning over €100,000,” said Sen Whelan.

He said the tax package, part of the new changes to the Budget had “fairness at its core”.

“With a tax cut for those on lowest incomes, and a USC tax increase for the wealthiest. It makes absolutely no sense that opposition should oppose it,” said Sen Whelan.

“They are more concerned about preserving their image as a party of protest than they are about making a progressive difference to peoples’ lives,” he accused.

Dep Stanley says Sinn Féin voted against the bill because it widens the income gap.

“Those earning over €80,000 gained €747 while the lowest paid gained nothing. John would be unaware of the reasons for the vote because neither he nor any other Labour Senator or TD, bothered to attend the 14 hours of discussion at the Committee Stage of the Bill,” he said.

He hit back at what he calls “bluff and bluster”, accusing Sen Whelan of voting in cuts while crying “crocodile tears”.

“This is a desperate attempt to deflect attention from his own appalling track record,” he said.

He listed “cruel and vicious” cuts to grants the Labour Fine Gael government made, including respite care and child benefit.

“He also voted for water tax, house tax and increased VAT. Yet another broken Labour election promise. Not alone did they not burn senior bondholders as promised, they continue to dish out millions to unguaranteed gamblers,” he said, adding that Sinn Féin’s tax proposals would have taken 296,000 low earners from the USC net, abolished home tax and undone cuts to carers.

The changes to income tax come into effect in January.