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 Header Item Leaders' Questions (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)
 Header Item Official Engagements

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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  4 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] Let me repeat the facts. The Deputy and others, prior to this budget, were out on the streets, as they are perfectly entitled to do, saying that all of these allowances would be decimated, savaged or abolished. In fact, the old-age pension was not cut in the budget, free travel was not cut, the carer's allowance was not cut, the half-rate carer's allowance was not cut and home care packages were not cut. In the area of social protection, the Government increased the ceiling of expenditure and added a further €100 million in order to protect the issues we are concerned about. It is not a case of deciding that one can increase everything that is there. I understand, as does the Deputy, the pressure that many people are under. He rightly raises the report published today in respect of joblessness in this country. That is what this budget is actually about - jobs and opportunities and giving small and medium enterprises, the backbone of any economy, the chance to flourish and prosper. That is why the Minister for Finance made no bones about his inclusion of a particular package for small and medium enterprises so that our economy can be driven to rise towards prosperity and employment for the future.

Creating employment is the focus when I meet my colleagues at the European Council, when we speak of the fact that unemployment among young people is at 58% in Greece, 50% in Spain and 29% here, while it is virtually nil in Austria and a number of other countries. That is what the European Council and we in this country must focus on - giving these young people hope and an opportunity to see that where one makes decisions with a view towards a thriving economy, that employment, opportunity and work will follow. When I visited Nypro in Bray some days ago, I saw all the young engineers, the vast majority from this country, creating the future in terms of the concepts they translate into reality. That goes back a number of years to a different Minister who made the decision to establish Science Foundation Ireland and invest for the future in mathematics, science, research and innovation. That is paying dividends now.

What the Minister for Finance did in this budget was place a deliberate focus on jobs and job opportunities. The vast majority of hard-pressed, middle-income families and those who are out of work will never have the opportunity we all want them to have unless we change the way we do business and unless we can grow our economy. That is why the competitiveness rating of our country has increased and interest rates internationally for borrowing have fallen. That is in the interests of people having confidence in our indigenous economy to spend, have access to finance and have assistance from the State facilities to maintain and grow their employment numbers and change direction. That is what the budget is about. It is not about any individual party in this House; it is about Government working for the people of Ireland and our country.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett People are protesting today and they will be protesting tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. These protestors understand that unlike the Clearing House Group, whose members sit down with officials of the Department of Finance and script the budget for the Government, their voices are not being listened to. Did the Taoiseach read what the ESRI said today? It said that people are trapped in unemployment because they have all the extra burdens of large families to support, because of a dysfunctional social welfare system which puts obstacles in the way of getting back to work, and because of the lack of child care facilities and public services. The Government has made all of those issues worse through, for example, cuts in the income disregard for lone parents, in the back to school allowance and in child benefit. All of those measures further trap these people in poverty.

My question to the Taoiseach is very simple. Does he accept that his party has betrayed the solemn promises it made in the last election to protect the vulnerable, particularly the disabled, and that the Labour Party has betrayed its absolutely explicit and solemn promise not to cut child benefit? This Government is turning on the people to whom it made these promises. Does that not make him ashamed? Does he not agree that it discredits the entire political system?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Deputy seems to have forgotten that this is the first Government to have appointed a senior Cabinet Minister to deal with children and youth affairs. He conveniently forgets, for instance, that this budget protects the free preschool year for children. He conveniently forgets that the budget introduced an extra 6,500 after-school places for young children so that mothers and fathers will have a better opportunity to balance their home and working lives in such a way as to ensure their children receive the attention they require. It is a case of focusing on the circumstances in which our country finds itself, on what we must do to get our economy back on track and on where jobs can be created. The Deputy can talk until he is blue in the face but our country is going nowhere unless we deal with the question of employment and how we can achieve a reduction in unemployment. That means jobs being created, small and medium enterprises being allowed to flourish, our country's attractiveness as a place for investment from abroad continuing strongly, and the continued capacity of this country to export our goods abroad. That is why, for example, the rebate for hauliers, who have to transport all of the products we produce for export, was included.

This was a budget about the people and our country and central to that, whether the Deputy likes it or not, is that we must prioritise job opportunities and the facilities for work and employment creation. That is the central focus of the budget. I appreciate the difficulties that many hard-pressed families have to contend with. These are the circumstances the Government has to deal with following the legacy left to us. We will deal with it. There are opportunities up ahead but sometimes, as the Deputy knows, tough decisions must be made in the interests of the overall good of our people and our country. I commend the people on their patience in understanding that sometimes these things are necessary.

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Official Engagements

 1. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the number of non-party political events which he has attended in each month during 2012 which have been handled by the protocol section of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47363/12]

 2. Deputy Gerry Adams Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams asked the Taoiseach Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the role of the protocol section of his Department in organising non-party political events. [55213/12]

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

  The table sets out the information sought by the Deputy up to the end of November 2012. It has been the long-standing practice for the protocol section to assist the Taoiseach in regard to his or her official domestic engagements. This involves liaising with event organisers on a programme for the event and subsequently attending the event in order to ensure its organisation is, from the Taoiseach's perspective, in keeping with the dignity of the office.

  None of the staff in the protocol section has any involvement in engagements of a party political nature attended by me, nor is it the practice for them to attend events in my constituency other than those of national significance.

Taoiseach's domestic engagements involving protocol section 2012  

Number of Engagements

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I have not yet seen the table referred to in the reply. It is a good thing for a Taoiseach to make himself or herself available for a large number of events, but there is an important question as to whether this Taoiseach is focusing on events where he will not be challenged in any significant way. Last Sunday, for example, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry said it was thrilled by the unprecedented level of access which it has had to the Taoiseach's office. Its representatives were very happy to be able to influence the budget in this way.

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