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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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Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello This year was the first time a centralised system was introduced. The Deputy should look at the beam in his own eye.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath SUSI went on holidays.

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

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The only image that is embedded in the minds of students is the Minister for Education and Skills on the steps of Trinity College, Dublin, swearing blind and signing on the dotted line that he would reverse the student contribution charge and not increase it. Yesterday, we discovered the student charge will now be over €1,000. That is what students are saying about the Minister. The Government should not tell us it is trying to improve the situation for students because it is not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Where was Deputy Martin when the IMF came in here?

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

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The increase in the charge is regressive. We need to encourage people to get through education.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Who got us into this spending mess?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Minister is talking about the past 14 years. The most important statistic to come out in the past three weeks about Irish education is that we now have a 90% completion rate in second level. That is because of the strategic decisions we took about second level completion and investment.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Who introduced free third level education?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Our second level participation rates have moved from 78% to 90% in a decade. We want to do the same with third level. We have one of the highest participation rates of second level students going into third level of any European Union country. This is because of a sustained and agreed approach to third level education. It cannot be thrown away now because it will undermine a key strategic intervention in getting the country out of its crisis.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello The Deputy needs to give credit where credit is due.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yesterday, there was a bit of delegation going on with the budget. The Higher Education Authority was given a €25 million cut but it was claimed no services would be impacted, which is simply not credible. Again, the Minister will be at one remove when these cuts are introduced.

Deputy Robert Dowds: Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds Like what the Deputy did when he set up the Health Service Executive.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Deputy Dowds should get back in his box.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The same goes for the unspecified cut of €13 million for the vocational education committees.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello What is Fianna Fáil going to do?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin When it happens on the ground, it will not be the Minister who will be blamed but some anonymous group.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello Why was Fianna Fáil not able to submit its pre-budget submission to the Department of Finance?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We did. The Minister is wrong. That is a spurious political claim. We costed our budget proposals and tabled parliamentary questions to get more information.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea That would be to the Department of Finance.

Deputy Joe Costello: Information on Joe Costello Zoom on Joe Costello It is based on parliamentary questions?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I hope the Minister of State is not suggesting parliamentary replies are untrue or inaccurate. Is that what he is suggesting?

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

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We look at the replies in good faith that they are accurate and tell us the truth. Maybe they do not.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Maybe some things have to be hidden.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I will acknowledge we have had to use freedom of information requests much more frequently because of the reluctance of the Government to give information to the House.

This year's shambolic introduction of a household charge proved there is no public acceptance of a family home charge. As the troika has repeatedly said, it is up to the Government to decide how to raise its money. No one is forcing it to introduce a family home tax.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Except for Big Phil.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Before the election, Fine Gael said such a tax is unfair and would not be introduced. Labour said nothing should be done before 2014 and that it must, under no circumstances, be a flat tax.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Martin signed up to this when he signed up to the programme with the troika.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Government's proposal is for an unjust tax which is weighted against urban areas. It does not have and will not earn public support because of its unfairness and it could cause much wider problems. It is even more unfair to introduce such a tax before the rising social and economic impact of mortgage and household debt in the economy is tackled where one in five mortgages are actually in arrears. The lack of any major initiative in this area yesterday was striking.

As Fianna Fáil set out in its pre-budget document, the measures announced yesterday are not inevitable. They are the product of political choices between parties manoeuvring for position and they are bad choices. They will increase the already rising sense of unfairness about who is bearing the load of reducing our deficit. They will damage the confidence which is vital for a return to growth in our domestic economy. They will make our country less safe by withdrawing community policing from large sections of the country. They are being introduced without any overall strategy for growth or job creation other than hoping that something will turn up in Europe.

One of the most unmistakable traits of this budget is how it is lacking in new ideas or a major initiative. Many small things are being done in order that claims can be made to visionary leadership, but the difference between the rhetoric and the reality is growing every day. The only significant departure in this budget is that the Government has doubled-down on its policy of implementing profoundly regressive cuts. No matter how often the Taoiseach claims he is about fairness and job creation, the public will simply not buy it.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Government could have brought forward a fair budget. This, however, was not a fair budget. Tá a fhios ag an Taoiseach nach raibh sé deacair na roghanna cearta a dhéanamh. Rinne an Rialtas na roghanna míchearta arís, áfach. Cén fáth? Sinn Féin has shown how in our fully costed alternative budget, yet the Taoiseach chose to ignore this. Instead, yesterday, he produced a regressive, anti-family, cruel budget, one that is neither fair nor just. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade spoke about a fairness agenda. However, fairness demands equality and justice. Fairness means increasing taxes for those who can afford to pay more while protecting working families, citizens on low and middle incomes and those struggling to make ends meet. It means protecting front-line services. This budget does none of this. There is not even a whisper of a jobs plan.

Neither can we pretend it imposes any real burden on the wealthy. That is a sham argument by a Labour leadership desperate to escape criticism for introducing an anti-working class, anti-children and anti-jobs budget. Yesterday, the Labour Party leadership abandoned all pretence of leading at being the party of James Connolly. The truth is that this budget disproportionately targets hard-pressed families and will slash front-line services.

This budget will undermine any possibility of growth in the economy. Hundreds of thousands of families have been hit by a family home tax, more PRSI payments, cuts to child benefit, hikes in college registration fees and increases in motor tax. Sinn Féin is opposed to the Government's tax on the family home. It calls it a property tax. It is a tax on the family home, sin é. It is clear the Government is prepared to use all means to take this tax from struggling families.

Deputy Robert Dowds: Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds Sinn Féin set up a property tax in the North.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I sat here in complete silence and listened to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Leader of Fianna Fáil. The other Deputies may not like what I am saying but they should at least listen. I can say as someone who comes from the North that there is no property tax there. Sin é. The Deputy is telling fibs.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Go raibh maith agat.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Many families in the State will not be able to pay this tax. I am putting the Taoiseach on notice that from today, Sinn Féin will be actively campaigning to resist the introduction of this unfair tax on the family home. It is not yet law and it can be stopped. Sinn Féin has an alternative that is fair, namely, a wealth tax that is levied on the property of the wealthy. The so-called mansions tax is little more than a gimmick and a poor one at that. The Government had the option of a real wealth tax and chose not to take it. Instead, it chose to impose a punitive tax on the family home.

Sinn Féin is calling on every citizen to make a stand and resist the imposition of this unfair home tax. There is time for the Government to reverse this decision. This home tax is the brainchild of Fianna Fáil. If the Government is allowed to legislate for it, it will be the tipping point for many families across the State. The limits imposed for those allowed a deferral are pitiful. A deferral of tax is not an exemption and the fact the Government plans to charge 4% interest on deferrals will only add insult to injury for hard-pressed home owners. While I welcome the three-year property tax exemption for first-time buyers, the fact is the thousands of people in severe mortgage distress will have to pay this family home tax, if the Government is allowed to bring in the relevant legislation.

The Government is continuing to place the burden on low and middle income families, on the coping classes and the working poor. Despite the Government's promises not to increase income taxes, the amount of PRSI that citizens must pay has been increased, including for the lowest earners.


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