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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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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] The decision to abolish the weekly PRSI threshold of €127 will mean an increase of €264 a year for those earning over the minimum wage. On top of the family home tax, this will cause great distress. The Government also increased PRSI for the self-employed but they will get nothing for it. Sinn Féin would have introduced a third rate of tax for people earning over €100,000, which would have raised €365 million. Instead the Government has targeted the low paid and levied additional taxes on those earning €18,000 and over. These are people on the minimum wage. Was the Taoiseach ever on the minimum wage? One must spend every cent in the local economy. Taxing them has the dual effect of hurting them, their families and the local economy. More small shops and businesses close and more jobs are lost.

The high earners on over €100,000 will not feel the impact of the extra €264 a year but those on the minimum wage will definitely feel the loss of €264 out of their pockets. No matter how the Government spins it, the budget means a family of two parents and two children with an income of €55,000 will lose, on average, over €500 a year. A lone parent earning €35,000 with two children will also lose just over €500 a year. That is not fair.

For many, particularly in rural Ireland, a car is a necessity. While there is no increase in excise duty on petrol or diesel, the price will increase as a result of the increase in carbon tax. The vehicle registration tax rate and motor tax rates will also increase from 1 January through flat rate increases. The fuel hikes, the motor tax hikes and the VRT change will make it more costly for many families. Between the universal social charge, the septic tank charges, the household charge and cuts to the agriculture budget, the Government has abandoned rural Ireland and its people and the people of rural Ireland know it.

The Government could have implemented Sinn Féin’s proposals. We called on the Government to standardise pension and other tax reliefs. It has been revealed time and time again that the top 20% of income earners avail of 80% of the tax reliefs paid. These are the people the Government is protecting, not the poor but the wealthy. No other issue reveals the depths to which the Government has sunk than its decision to cut child benefit. Shame on the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party. I now have the attention of the Taoiseach because the word shame gets him to focus.

During the last election campaign, the Labour Party called on the public to protect child benefit by voting Labour. The Labour Party leader told the electorate it was a red line issue. Adverts defending child benefit and warning of Fine Gael’s intentions were placed in newspapers. Labour put up posters across the State. Yesterday, and not for the first time, the Labour Party leadership, at least, abandoned its core values.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Let us hear the constructive suggestions of Sinn Féin.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Under the proposal from the Labour Party and Fine Gael, child benefit cuts of €10 for the first and second child, €18 for the third child and €20 for the fourth and following children, will be introduced.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Ferris admitted Sinn Féin did not submit costings.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams This means a family of four children will be down €58 per month in child benefit cuts alone and a family of 6 children will be down €98. That is a lot of money and will have a crippling effect on families dependent on it. Children and the young families have borne the brunt of the budget.

Less than one month since the passage of the children’s referendum, the reality of the Government’s commitment to children is exposed. I warned the Taoiseach before the referendum that people saw the difference between the Government's rhetoric and the reality of its policies on children. The number of children at risk of poverty and deprivation will rise as a consequence of this budget. A recent report revealed that 10% of households suffer from food poverty. It is a new buzzword that means hunger. I come from a community where mothers and grandmothers have been taken to hospital with malnutrition because they are feeding their children. I am sure it is the same in the Taoiseach's constituency. This budget will make matters worse. Basics such as food, clothing and shelter will become unaffordable for thousands of families. The crisis for families will be exacerbated by the decision to cut the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance by 50%. Does the Taoiseach know what it is like to clothe three or four children going back to school when one is earning the minimum wage? The mark of this Government is the defence of the despicable cut by the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton – mar dhea – who told journalists there is a lot of good value in shops in relation to clothing and footwear. It is easy for the Minister to say that, with a take home pay of €169,000. It shows how the Government is living in a bubble and how its ivory towers are removed from the reality of life of most families.

Our leas-uachtaráin, Deputy McDonald, raised the following point this morning. One of the most despicable decisions of the Government parties is the cut to respite care for children with severe disabilities. An féidir leis an Taoiseach éisteacht liom ar feadh bomaite agus gan a bheith ag caint?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Ta mé ag éisteacht an t-am ar fad leis an Teachta.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Bhuel, éist agus foghlaim. The Taoiseach has cut €325 from more than 77,000 families. Some 20,000 of those families receive no other support from the State for providing full-time care for a family member. How low can one get? That is scandalous and shameful and certainly not a fair measure in a budget that was trumpeted as fair. Before the last general election, Labour and Fine Gael vehemently opposed prescription charges for medical card holders imposed by Mary Harney. In this budget, the Government has trebled the charges and increased the monthly maximum payment from €10 per month to €19.50 per month. It is only the tip of the iceberg and is building up for working people. The health system, under the millionaire Minister, Deputy James Reilly, has staggered from one crisis to another, with each more damaging than the last. The Minister has failed to deliver promised reductions in the price of medicines. Instead, he is passing the cost on to patients with higher prescription charges and the increase of the threshold for the drugs payment scheme. Older people, in particular, are attacked in this budget. People over 70 with an income of €600 to €700 per week will lose their medical card and will receive the GP-only card. They will have to bear the full cost of medication.

The Taoiseach keeps talking about the North and it is heartening for the people in the North to hear about what Sinn Féin is doing in government. Sinn Féin insisted that prescriptions would be free in the North. The Taoiseach can trumpet that. In response to questions tabled by me, we were told there would be no supplementary health budget but, because the Government completely mismanaged the health budget, which is almost €400 million in deficit, on Tuesday the Government was forced to bring in an emergency supplementary health budget. Yesterday, the Government announced further cuts of over €1 billion in health. The health service cannot bear this. How could it? One day, extra funding is allocated, the next day there are more cuts. It is a recipe for disaster and for deeper poverty and poorer health care, especially for low to middle income families with children, and for older people. It will mean job losses in the health service and greater risk to patient care. Leaving aside the philosophy that underpins these decisions, it is bad economics.

While the cuts in education are less severe their impact is nonetheless significant. 

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