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 Header Item Financial Resolutions 2013
 Header Item Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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Financial Resolutions 2013

Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed)

Debate resumed on the following motion:

  THAT it is expedient to amend the law relating to inland revenue (including value-added tax and excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.
--(Minister for Education and Skills).

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington I wish to share time with Deputies Twomey and Kyne.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Noel Harrington: Information on Noel Harrington Zoom on Noel Harrington I welcome the opportunity to speak on what has been a very difficult budget. It has been one of the most challenging budgetary processes this country has experienced. It goes without saying that any effort to correctly balance Ireland's books by €3.5 billion could be expected to meet with approval or popularity. Nevertheless, it had to be done and it is worth noting it was agreed by all parties in this House that an adjustment of €3.5 billion was required. Ireland is lumbered with many great challenges, the greatest of which is a significantly inflated unemployment figure which has proved to be a crippling obstacle to growth and greater prosperity. The desire to deal with this millstone around the neck of our country is fundamental to every decision taken as part of this budget. There are too many people, hundreds of thousands, who rely entirely on State benefits. We all agree every effort must be made to provide for an environment to get these people, too many of them on long-term unemployment, back to work.

There is less agreement, however, on how that environment needs to be created. Making work more attractive as an option is a way with which I agree. It is interesting to note that Sinn Féin, with all its rhetoric and polemics, not once referred to jobs. Attracting capital and foreign direct investment has to be encouraged. People are enterprising, hard-working and resourceful. Given the chance, they will respond positively.

Similarly, investors and entrepreneurs need one measure more than any other – stability. Even in a poor economic environment, a predictable and stable State provides the basis to create jobs. We have to take indecision, fear and negativity from any consideration by these entrepreneurs and investors to make their decisions. Our tax regime, our competitive environment and an ability to take hard decisions will pay dividends. We are beginning to see small but encouraging signs in this regard. This time last year we were completely locked out of the bond markets. Our yields were 10% but are now less than 2%. There is increasing confidence in our economy and unemployment is slowly beginning to fall.

A second challenge we need to address is debt, both national and personal. Again, it was an issue not referred to by earlier speakers. Even if our bank debt was struck out, our borrowing requirements for next year would only fall from €13 billion to €11 billion. If that striking out involved default, we would still need €11 billion from the very bond markets we told we would not repay by defaulting on our bank debt. Overnight, this would have catastrophic economic consequences with ATMs drying up while public service pay, pensions and welfare payments would be halved.

No one in this House should be satisfied, content or smug about the situation in which we find ourselves or how and when we will recover. It is the people who work every day of the week and on whose shoulders that this country will re-emerge leaner, more competitive and with a fairer society. We must get the country back to work. Subsequently, everything else will fall into place. These budget measures were difficult and not popular but needed to be taken. Hopefully, as the weeks and months progress we will see genuine and real improvements in our economic situation.

Deputy Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey Zoom on Liam Twomey The extreme peak of the Celtic tiger was in 2006. Since then, there are 350,000 more people living in Ireland, 50,000 more students in our schools, 30,000 more students going to third level and 80,000 more people receiving a State pension. However, there have been some negative developments too. Over half a million more people are medical card holders while 200,000 more are seeking jobseeker's payments. All of this has happened against the background of economic collapse of our public finances and significant changes to the lives of the people. Every budget must be measured against these parameters.

To get a steer on the way Members were approaching this debate, I listened to several contributions from the Opposition. Some were measured but one would also need a sense of humour to listen to some of the drivel that passes for debate from the Opposition. I know the Opposition parties could not have been bothered to get their alternative budgets costed by the Department of Finance. Some of the Members who receive €40,000 of taxpayers' money to run parties of one were alternating between collapsing the economy completely to the unusual suggestion that we should follow the blood sacrifice of 1916 and Irishmen and Irishwomen should start killing each other over the local property tax. That was surpassed by a former Fianna Fáil Minister lecturing the Government on how unemployment figures have impacted on people. One would never have believed he was part of a government that essentially destroyed the sacrifices Irish people made and the gains they achieved since the foundation of the State. All of these were thrown away by the former Government. It is up to this Government to restore them.

It is acknowledged by Members, especially Government Members, that circumstances are very difficult for some of our citizens and they have every reason to be angry and frustrated. Unfortunately, it is easy for some to exploit the raw anger, genuine frustration and the fears so many of these citizens have. I hope we can identify those most in need and help them as best we can as we modify this budget and government policy over the next several months. It is left to Fine Gael and the Labour Party, as coalition partners, to work together - with a certain amount of friction I accept - and debate the serious financial and social issues that so clearly need to be resolved in this country. Unfortunately, we have not got the interaction one would expect from the Opposition. The debate from Members opposite, as previous speakers have said, is just drivel and polemics from people trying to make space for themselves in the political arena rather than having a genuine concern about what some people are going through. I hope we will come through this crisis in three years' time. I hope the negativity that seems to have infected the Opposition will dissipate to some degree over time. Political opportunism will be seen for what it is by the people outside of this House. Many Ministers have made sterling efforts since we came into office to make life better for the people and minimise the impact of some difficult policy choices. It will be left to the Government's backbenchers to hold our Ministers to account to ensure these budgetary impacts are lessened.

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