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Budget Statement 2013 (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath] That issue could be resolved tomorrow morning if there was the political will. It is not a huge number.

  St. Michael's House has lost €11.2 million in cuts. Under the Croke Park agreement it has reduced its staff by 160, reduced absenteeism from 6.5 % to 3.5% and has reduced administration staff by 34%. There is an example of productivity, but what will the Government do? It will cut again. A 1% cut for these families means €700,000 from their service. A 3% cut means a reduction of €2.1 million. That should be compared with the billions of euro being pumped into the banks. St. Michael's House will have intermittent closures in day services, residential services and respite services. It will have a reduction in transport services, support services and clinical services. This is the reality for many families and people with disabilities.

  In 1941 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt said:

There is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are: equality of opportunity for youth and for others; jobs for those who can work; security for those who need it; the ending of special privilege for the few; the preservation of civil liberties for all; and the enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

Sadly these are missing from today's budget.

  Some €3 million is being spent on special advisers, which equates to 300,000 home help hours. It is a disgraceful situation. We also have the home tax which is an attack on the family, on young couples in negative equity and on senior citizen couples under financial pressure. At one time the Taoiseach was opposed to the home tax and now he supports it. The budget should have been about fairness and sorting out our public finances. However, all we get are more cuts and attacks on families, the family home, children, the disabled, the carers, the unemployed and low-paid workers. It is a budget steeped in injustice. I will be voting against it and I urge all Deputies to reject it.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy This is a deeply unfair and shameful budget that attacks the most vulnerable in society. It hits the poorest people by hitting the working poor, middle Ireland, the elderly and children. The Government refused to go with the alternative of taxing high earners and preferred to attack the most vulnerable. The most shameful cut is the attack on children. Central Statistics Office figures indicate that 200,000 children live in poverty and 500 children are homeless. However, the Minister for Social Protection - an odd title - has cut €10 from the first and second child, €18 from the third child and, from 1 January 2014, €30 from the fourth child. That is against a background of Labour in government. During the 2011 general election campaign the Labour Party had an advertisement claiming it would protect child benefit because it had already been cut by too much. It stated: "Labour is against Fine Gael's latest proposal to cut child benefit by €252 p.a. for the average family. Families need Labour in Government."

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy may not display any such items in the Chamber.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy Shame on the Tánaiste and shame on the Labour Party. This is a disgraceful and shameful attack on families. It shows that the Labour Party has absolutely nothing in common with the Labour Party of James Connolly, Jim Larkin or any of the founders of the party. The budget hits almost every other section in society. Carers, who look after those with disabilities, are having their respite care grant cut. There are attacks on the elderly in the electricity, gas and telephone allowance household package schemes. There is a shameful attack on low income families - the working poor - with the abolition of the €127 PRSI allowance. There is the property tax, or family home tax as it should be called, which is a major attack on families, on the 160,000 mortgage holders who are in distress, on the half of mortgage holders who are in negative equity and on local authority tenants who are being hit for the first time under this tax. Of course, it bears no relationship to ability to pay. The increases in prescription charges and for the drug payment scheme are also an attack on the elderly.

The approach in the budget is wrong. It is more austerity, more cuts and more taxes. That approach has patently failed. The budget should be about job creation. Since it came to power the Government has actually destroyed jobs. In the year to 30 June, the Government's figures show that 33,400 net jobs were lost to the economy. In the quarter to 30 September, 5,800 net jobs were lost. Built into the budget is a loss of jobs this year, no increase in jobs next year and a very modest increase in jobs in 2015, which is only a target.

We need a complete change of approach. We need to stop the austerity. We need to tax the wealthy; there is huge wealth in society. We need to stop paying the debt. Some €9 billion will leave the country next year in the payment of debt. We were told that would stop. Remember the promises to burn the bondholders and not a single cent for the banks. We need direct creation of jobs by the State because there is a major job strike and investment strike by people in this country.

The trade union movement has a responsibility with regard to the budget. Can Labour-affiliated trade unions stand over this shameful budget which attacks the working poor and the most vulnerable in society? I call on these unions to disaffiliate from the Labour Party and to call a conference to start a real labour party as Connolly and Larkin did in my home town of Clonmel in 1912.

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy The focus of attention by media and individuals will be on the detail of the budget and how it will impact on people. However, to understand why cuts and increased taxes are being imposed we need to consider the big picture. The big picture is the astronomical cost of servicing the debt. Some of that debt was legitimately built up but other elements were imposed on us as a result of the bailout. We are paying slightly over €8 billion in interest. A bailout gives the impression that we are getting something and it will be something positive, but in fact it is a very expensive loan to pay for dead banks and to pay back bondholders. It pays for things we should never have incurred in the first place. For that our EU partners call us "special".

Both Government parties promised to renegotiate the debt and free up money for a stimulus. We were going to get a strategic investment that was to create tens of thousands of jobs.

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