MUTINY! ECONOMY; Angry Labour Senators Could Scupper Coalition's Hated Social Welfare Bill

Article excerpt

Byline: SARAH BARDON Political Reporter sarah.bardon@mgn.ie

THREE Labour Senators are now threatening to vote against the Social Welfare Bill, throwing the Government's Budget plans into chaos.

James Heffernan, John Whelan and Denis Landy are to hold a showdown with Joan Burton tomorrow ahead of Tuesday's key vote.

Limerick Senator Mr Heffernan said he won't be bullied into making a decision but believed people voted Labour on the basis they wouldn't cut child benefit.

He added: "I do have concerns, I would be lying if I said I didn't.

"I am going to meet other Senators, we do have a meeting with the minister on Tuesday. I am not going to be strong-armed or bullied into voting one way or the other. I will make up my own mind."

Senator Landy said he is consulting members and his supporters about the cuts to child benefit and the respite care grant.

If the three senators vote against it, the Bill could be delayed by up to 90 days and cause a massive headache for the Social Protection Minister.

This follows the massive blow last week when Labour chairman Colm Keaveney voted against the cutbacks.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said this wasn't about individuals and his party will not "shirk its responsibility" when it comes to tough and unpopular decisions.

Yesterday, he tried to defend the decision to go back on his key election promise not to touch child benefit if he came to power.

He said: "Every political party made promises at election time.

"No party got an overall majority. The Labour party got 19% of the vote.

"The outcome of the election was that no party could form an overall majority on its own. …