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Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] The backing away from a real reform of the political and budgetary process has been obvious to anyone paying attention. Last year’s budget fortnight has been abandoned and a traditional budget day restored. In the Oireachtas, discussion was allowed in advance of the Estimates, but there is nothing in what has been published which even slightly reflects Oireachtas input. Within Government, the increasingly ineffective Economic Management Council has destroyed collective responsibility with Ministers actively distancing themselves from unpopular decisions on the basis that they were not properly consulted. Sitting around doing nothing for hours and ordering in pizza might be okay for teenagers with a few days off, but it is not what you expect from a Cabinet.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is a farce.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin What the final budget decisions reveal is a Government that holds many meetings with outside groups but rarely ever listens to what is being said. How else could one explain all the meetings with children’s organisations which were followed by the targeting in this budget of families with children?

Yesterday’s announcement that 100 Garda stations will be closed will rightly lead to demonstrations throughout the country. When closing stations the Government repeatedly said they were only marginal stations, which were more trouble than benefit. In seeking to close 100 stations this excuse is irrelevant. It is a programme to change policing in Ireland radically by making it more distant from the community and exposing large sections of the country to significantly reduced coverage. If one believes the Garda make a difference to keeping us safe - I have no doubt that is the case - then one must accept that this radical and dangerous proposal must be stopped before it goes any further.

Each one of the welfare cuts imposed in the budget could have been avoided if the proposal to target the highest income earners had been adopted. Instead, Fine Gael insisted that social welfare must feel the pain and the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, went about designing a set of cuts which is deeply mean spirited. Families with children have been singled out for major cuts in their income. Last year the Government told us that Scandinavian child care was on the way. This year the Fine Gael and Labour vision of Scandinavian child care is being implemented, with cuts to child benefit, taxing of maternity benefit, cuts to clothing and footwear allowances and a handful of extra child care places. When she was in opposition the Minister, Deputy Burton, liked nothing more than to find ways of attacking welfare packages no matter how generous they were. She was particularly happy to have coined the term "savage 16" and said of the Minister concerned, “her actions make Margaret Thatcher look like a socialist.” Today, the conscience of the Labour Party in government-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath What conscience?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----is justifying cuts which are dramatically more severe and targeted against the most vulnerable. When challenged about cutting basic support for clothing and footwear, her callous response is to tell people “there is a lot of good value in shops”.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Attila the hen.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The mounting evidence that the Department of Health is out of control is clear to everyone in the country but the Taoiseach.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He knows too.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Even other Cabinet Ministers are saying that the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, is turning tough conditions into a crisis. In this budget we see more about the truth of a regressive and cynical health policy. The move by the Government to restrict the over-70s medical card is especially shameless given its past campaigning on this issue.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes What about the situation of Fianna Fáil?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister, Deputy Reilly, tabled a motion demanding an extension to medical card eligibility and said it was merited because-----

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes Does Deputy Martin remember poor Máire Hoctor?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This is what the Minister said-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputies, please.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath She is a principal.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----“Those are the people who made this country what it is today....They raised us, nursed us when we were sick, protected us from violence, grew our food”. That is what the Minister said not so long ago in this House about medical cards for over-70s. The Taoiseach joined in that debate with great gusto.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Of course I did.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have all the Taoiseach's speeches in a large file, demonstrating his hypocrisy and lack of sincerity.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath There is great value in the Taoiseach's speeches.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The shredder broke down because it could not cope with all the reports generated by Deputy Martin when he was Minister. They cost €130 million.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello There was not room to file them all away.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister, Deputy Reilly-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Order, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister's speech might well rate in history alongside the visit by the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, to the front gate of Trinity College for breathtaking cynicism.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea What happened there?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That was the breaking of a promise made before the election, the trebling of prescription charges does that and adds to it the breaking of a post-election announcement.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I have not heard a constructive suggestion from Deputy Martin since he began to speak.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin One should remember that the Minister, Deputy Reilly, was only days in office when he summoned journalists to hear that he intended not just cutting, but abolishing prescription charges.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Government cannot even keep the promises it made after the election, let alone before.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The prescription charge is €1.50. Many pensioners are on medication and use six to nine items a month. The Government might not have cut the old age pension but through this measure alone it is taking approximately €20 off them - €19.50 - as a result of the prescription charge. The Government fulfils its election rhetoric by saying that core rates will not be changed but it gets people in other ways. It is a completely cynical approach.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath They are taxing the hearse.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Céard é sin, Mattie?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Government is taxing the hearse.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Céard atá á rá ansin?

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It will be the shroud next.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The cut in the respite care grant is callous when added on top of the cut to home help. How could the Government distribute thousands of leaflets claiming to have delivered a fair budget when it has done that? I heard people on the radio this morning-----

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Martin distributed 1,000 leaflets about the property tax during the children's referendum campaign even though his party in government designed the scheme.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin ----interrupting the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Please. Deputy Martin should be allowed to speak.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----with a passion and conviction that left the Minister speechless.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Government will have to reverse the cut.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The leaflets were distributed all over Cork.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I ask the Taoiseach to reverse the cut.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea For heaven's sake.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Mistakes were made in the previous budget as well. There were appalling attacks on DEIS schools. The most disadvantaged schools were affected in last year's budget.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello St. Augustine. We want it, but not yet.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Minister of State, Deputy Costello, is a Labour Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We fought a campaign against that and the Government eventually reversed the cuts to DEIS schools. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, came to the House and apologised for what he did.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes I thought Deputy Martin said it was the Labour backbenchers.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I put it to the Taoiseach that he must examine the matter again. The saving identified is approximately €26 million.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Can you not go over behind him if-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Céard atá á rá ag Mattie?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Members should have respect for the speaker.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Níl mé in ann a chloisteáil céard atá á rá aige.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Níl aon rud le rá.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Tá eolas ag Mattie.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Cur smacht ar sin.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin If I might continue, €26 million is involved. People watching are not interested in that kind of tomfoolery, they are interested in whether anything can be done about the respite grant.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Cur smacht air.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It can be done and it should be done.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Government should reverse it.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I plead with the Taoiseach on the matter today. This is what the debate is about; for people to listen to what we are saying and to take on board some of it, at least a bit of it. Of all the things that have been done, I urge the Government to restore the respite grant because it is paid to people who care on a 24-7 basis for relatives, people with severe disabilities and for people with special needs. We must do that if we respect the caring ethos, which is fundamental to how we look after the elderly in this country, and those with special needs. In many instances the State is not doing all it would like for carers and people who need care. Given what people across the floor are saying, the Government has time to do so in the context of the social welfare Bill. We will table amendments to secure the reversal of the decision and the restoration of the grant. We brought the grant up to the current level because it can be helpful to people, even those who are not in receipt of carer's allowance. Most of the people contacting offices this morning say the payment is used for basic things such as heating, transport and to keep the household going. It is important that the Taoiseach would examine the issue again.

In the third-largest Department, Education and Skills, cuts are once again being targeted at disadvantaged families and communities. The increases in third level fees will continue and now an effort is being made to ensure that more and more families have to pay the fees. Combining an increase in fees with a reduction in eligibility for grants means that the reversal of advances in equal access will be accelerated. I do not understand why such a sneaky, underhand move was made on the means threshold for third level grants because education will be central to coming out of this crisis. We want young people to continue on to third level and fourth level. Due to the mess caused by SUSI for the first time in a long time I have met students on the street who said they were contemplating leaving college.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Deputy Martin should not be so silly. When he was Minister for Education and Science we got a number of complaints about grants and he never did anything about them. Grants were not available until after Christmas.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is true.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Order.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I was in Castlebar three weeks ago and a young student doing biomedical engineering in UCG said he was contemplating leaving because the grant had not come through and he had no information about it. I do not like saying that.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello SUSI is a new mechanism to improve the awarding of grants.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is not working.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Students have no confidence in the Minister of State, Deputy Costello.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Fianna Fáil had 15 years to get it right.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The system only came in this year. How could we put it right when it has only just been introduced?


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