The Fine Gael-Labour Irish coalition government this week passed its first austerity budget, aimed at making workers pay the cost of the deepening crisis of capitalism.
In the fifth such budget since 2009, Fine Gael Finance Minister Michael Noonan is picking up from where the previous Fianna Fail government left off.
While corporation and income tax were frozen, a regressive flat-rate household charge of €100 has been introduced and VAT was raised from 21% to 23%. Cuts were made to Child Benefit for third and subsequent children, fuel payments, and the allowance for young adults with disabilities.
For students, the Student Contribution has been raised by a further €250, along with cuts to undergraduate maintenance grants and the abolition of maintenance grants for new postgraduates.
The newly-elected Labour TD for Dublin West & Swords, Patrick Nulty, was the only coalition back-bencher to vote against the Budget. He has been expelled from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Deputy Nulty told Solidarity, "I voted against the budget because austerity is not working. I believe the most vulnerable were hit hardest by this budget and that the reductions in jobs and investment will hamper economic recovery. I believe alternatives exist and those who have most must pay most."
In a sign of growing grassroots anger, Labour Youth have come out in support of Nulty.
National Chairperson Conor Ryan said that “many grassroots activists rightly respect Patrick hugely for the stand of principled opposition he has taken on behalf of ordinary people in this budget. I call on the PLP to listen to what he and other colleagues who have recently lost the Whip have to say on this budget, and ensure that the values of the Labour Party find voice in this government to a greater extent than is currently the case.”