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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 Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] The €23 million cut in the education budget will have a disproportionate impact on learners from the more disadvantaged sections of Irish society. The millions of euro to be cut from higher education will seriously impede opportunities for people to upskill and diversify. Funding for higher education institutions has taken a significant hit with a €25 million reduction being imposed in 2013 and a €13.2 reduction in the allocations of the VECs. The reduction of income thresholds for eligibility for student grants by 3% is a continuation of Fianna Fáil's policy and will prevent even more students from low and middle income families from pursuing higher level courses. The cut being imposed by the Department of Social Protection in relation to the back-to-education allowance and the estimated saving of €17 million will impact greatest on the less well-off who wish to return to education.

Do we remember the Minister, Deputy Ruairí Quinn’s public flourish before the last election in signing up to opposition to any increase in student fees? It is another U-turn. Yesterday, the same Minister announced another increase of €250 to the third level contribution. Students will now have to pay €2,500 in fees. So much for the claim that third level education is free.

The negative impact of Government policy imposes the greatest burden on those who have least and can least afford further burdens being imposed on them. There is also a negative impact on the economy. This is evident in the 20,000 net job losses and the 14.6% of citizens on the live register. We can see it in the overworked voluntary sector where organisations like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul cannot cope with the demands being made on it. Demands are, incidentally, being made on the society by Government Departments. The Government is asking a voluntary charity to help it.

The Government claims that after this budget we are 85% of the way there, but it does not tell us to where. We hear it parroted that we will be the best small country in which to do business. What about being the best small State to live in?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny In 2016 we will be the best small country in the world to do business in.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Where, exactly, is the Government taking us and what are the social consequences of the Government's austerity policies?

The Irish League of Credit Unions revealed several months ago that the number of people who are left with €100 or less at the end of each month has risen to over 1.8 million. Where will these citizens find the money for the Taoiseach's family home tax or to deal with his decision on PRSI? What of the tens of thousands of our young Irish people who are already in Australia, Canada, the US or Britain?

While the Minister tells us the economy is growing, the reality is that growth forecasts are being continually revised downwards. It gives me no pleasure to say the domestic economy is on the floor. Retail sales have fallen by over 30% since the start of the recession and thousands of jobs have been lost. The budget will do nothing to restore confidence in the domestic economy.  

What really galls people is that, in a parody of what passed before, the Taoiseach tells people to tighten their belts. He tells us we are all in this together and patronises people by saying he understands how this hurts them. Meanwhile, the fat cats in the banks’ headquarters continue to cream it at the expense of taxpayers. The Government borrowed €67 billion from the troika and gave €64 billion of it to the banks.

How has that money been spent? Just last month Sinn Féin revealed that nearly 3,000 staff at banks that have been bailed out are still paid over €100,000 every year. The Government takes away the carer's respite allowance while allowing this to continue, despite the mess the banks have created. There are 326 bankers who receive more than €200,000, 104 receive more than €300,000, 48 receive more than €400,000 and 27 receive more than half a million euro a year. These are salaries ordinary people can only dream of.

The banking system shows no compassion for its customers or the taxpayers who bailed them out. Instead of passing on rate cuts from the ECB to mortgage holders, they hike up their fees. They massage their figures on lending to small and medium enterprises. The Government had an opportunity to tackle this in the budget. The Minister for Finance could have used the tax system to claw back some of the pay-outs and pay-offs to the bankers and politicians who wrecked our economy.

The Government has announced a 3% increase in the universal social charge on pension income over €60,000 per year for people over 70 years of age. I have no doubt that some in the Labour Party will try to spin this measure as a meaningful tax on the very wealthy in our society. It is not in the least.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny We have capped tax relief on pension contributions.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams There are 160 retired bankers from the covered institutions who are receiving annual pension payments in excess of €100,000 per year.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny And there will be PRSI on unearned income.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Many of these are not even 70 years old. Seán Fitzpatrick is not 70 and neither is Brian Goggin, Eugene Sheehy or Colm Doherty.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny DIRT is increased to 33%.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams What of the former Ministers who bailed out these bankers? Former taoisigh are living the high life on lavish pensions while ordinary people bear the brunt of the crisis they created.

  There was no impediment to cutting the pay of bankers, Ministers, special advisers or the Taoiseach himself in the budget. The Government did not do that. There was no impediment to cutting bankers' pay.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Severance payments to Ministers have been abolished.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin They have not. The Taoiseach took his severance pay. I waived mine.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny They have been abolished for everyone.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is true. I apologise.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Please Deputies, Deputy Adams has seven minutes remaining.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Go raibh maith agat, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have much to talk about but this is my time to say something.

  Sinn Féin presented the Government with legislation last month that would enable the State to claw back a large amount of the money paid to bankers without breaking any contracts, merely by applying a levy on excess payments. The Taoiseach did not do it, but he has no problem making demands of the Irish people, telling them they have to give more and live on less. Why does he not make those demands of the bankers, politicians and those who have retired from the banking industry? The reason is that he does not have the stomach for it. It is easier to take on those who are less powerful.

  So, what is it all about? What is this institution, this Parliament, Teachtaí Dála and Seanadóirí about? What is the Government doing? Labour went into Government claiming they would rein in Fine Gael. The Greens said the same thing about Fianna Fáil and, before that, the Progressive Democrats claimed they were here to keep Fianna Fáil honest. They all failed. What is the purpose of Labour remaining in the Government? Next year, Labour will celebrate the centenary of the 1913 Lock-out. In 2013, the rich will be rich and the poor will be slaves. Labour has very little to celebrate, but perhaps they can celebrate bums on ministerial seats, flashy cars and big wages and pensions.

  I know there are decent people in every party and among the Independents. Probably everyone comes into the Dáil with good intentions, but we are here to serve the citizens, all the citizens and not the elites. Equality should be our watchword. We should be servants of our people. That is to whom we owe our allegiance. After last year's budget I quoted Luke Kelly. People of a certain age will have fond memories of Luke Kelly. I will quote him again - he says it better than I do:

For What Died the Sons and daughters of Róisín, was it greed 

Was it greed that drove Wolfe Tone to a pauper's death in a cell of cold wet stone?

Will German, French or Dutch inscribe the epitaph of Emmet?

When we have sold enough of Ireland to be but strangers in it. 

To whom do we owe our allegiance today

To those brave men and women who fought and died that Róisín live again with pride?

Or the faceless men who for mark and dollar,

Betray her to the highest bidder?

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