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Confidence in the Government: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty] The Sinn Féin motion is simply an echo of the frustration and disillusionment felt by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across the State. It is a reflection of the anger of ordinary people who are asking themselves why Fine Gael and Labour lied to them and why the parties now in Government made pre-election promises on child benefit and property tax only to break those promises within months of taking office. Pre-election promises may mean little to politicians like Deputy Pat Rabbitte or his colleagues in Cabinet. Those promises are the reason the voters chose one candidate or one party over another.

For almost a week now, my offices in Leinster House and Donegal have been inundated with calls from angry and upset people, not just constituents of mine but people from across the State. Some of them want to vent their anger, some want to explain the human impact this budget will have on their lives and all of them feel that this Government has let them down and betrayed them.

Budget 2013 marks the total betrayal of the election promises of this Fine Gael and Labour Government. I could give countless examples of why Members on both sides of the House should vote no confidence in this Government. Tonight I will focus on three examples: the cut to the carer's respite grant, the cut to child benefit and the family home tax. Last Wednesday, a woman from County Sligo telephoned my office. She was in tears. As a blind pensioner who lives alone in a rural area her telephone and broadband are her lifelines to the outside world. They are not a luxury but are vital for her to live. Through her tears she said that if the cuts to the telephone allowance went ahead she would not be able to afford her telephone and Internet service. She would be cut off, isolated and her quality of life would be destroyed. This is the human face of this Fine Gael and Labour budget.

Today I had the great privilege of talking to the carers who gathered in front of Leinster House calling for the reversal of the cut in the carer's respite grant. They are all remarkable people. Each of them told a different story of how this cut would impact on them and the loved ones they care for. As the protest came to an end and after many hours of carers standing in the freezing cold, I invited some of them to come in and warm themselves with a cup of tea before they headed home. Caroline from Dublin was one of them. I had never met her before. She told me her own personal story. Caroline is wheelchair-bound. She lives with a debilitating and progressive disease yet she is a woman with remarkable strength and courage. I initially thought that Caroline was the person being cared for but in fact Caroline is the carer. She lives alone with her 75 year-old mother who suffers with Parkinson’s disease and is a diabetic. Caroline administers her mother’s dialysis each day at home. She spoke about the challenges of being wheelchair bound, of getting her mother out of bed, washing, showering and dressing her every day and of all the other duties.

While she started telling the story with the kind of humour that comes naturally to a daughter talking about caring for her mother, her eyes welled up and she broke into tears. She asked why the Government valued her so little. She said that she hated the way this Government made her feel about herself. Caroline is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week carer. Her mother would be unable to function without her support. Every day, Caroline has the strength and courage to carry out the countless invisible tasks of a carer so that her mother can live with dignity. This is the human face of budget 2013. This is the real consequence of Fine Gael and Labour's proposal to cut the respite care grant. For every cut to a vital support there is a story like Caroline’s. This is what Fine Gael and Labour are doing to the people they promised to protect.

This is a budget that attacks carers, the sick, older people, children and families. It is a budget that will increase financial hardship and poverty for tens of thousands of families. The cuts to child benefit, the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance and the taxing of maternity benefit are all anti-child measures.

During the general election campaign, the Tánaiste, Deputy Eamon Gilmore said there would be no cuts to child benefit under his watch, that this was a red line issue for the Labour Party. If any of its Deputies bothered to turn up to listen to this debate, I would not have to explain to them the difficulties and the impact this will have on children and families. They know only too well. That is the reason this issue was a central part of their election campaign. How does the Labour Party expect those families who will be affected by this cut, particularly those who voted for the party on the basis of this promise, to have any confidence in it?

I will now deal with the family home tax. The Government claims it is a property tax but this is not true, it is a tax on the family home. A total of 170,000 families are in serious mortgage distress. Hundreds of thousands of them are in negative equity. Tens of thousands of people paid huge sums in stamp duty at the height of the boom. A total of 1.8 million households have less than €100 per month after essential bills are paid. Fine Gael and Labour campaigned on a promise to assist those who are struggling to pay their mortgages. They promised to ease their burden. Instead, the Government has slapped a tax on the family home on top of all the other stealth taxes and charges contained in the budget. The Government could have introduced a wealth tax, making those with the most pay the most. It could have cut the lavish pay of politicians, senior civil servants and bankers. It could have introduced emergency legislation to claw back the massive pensions paid to the bankers and former Cabinet Ministers who wrecked the economy. Instead, Fine Gael and Labour chose to hit carers, the sick, children and families. They chose to behave just like Fianna Fáil before them.

These are just three reasons why the public has lost confidence in this Government. It has lost confidence because the Government made a choice to make ordinary people pay for the bad decisions, the failed policies and the stroke politics of Fianna Fáil and their crooked banker and developer friends. This is what budget 2013 is about. There is no doubt that Fine Gael and Labour have broken their contract with the people. They have ridden roughshod over their election promises. They have torn to shreds their programme for Government commitments. They have destroyed the hopes and expectations of the entire population. This is the reason Sinn Féin has tabled this motion of confidence in the Government tonight. The Government never had the support of Sinn Féin but now it has lost the support of the people. I urge the House to support this motion.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin I will begin my contribution with a quotation.

I spent half an hour outside the gates of Leinster House today with parents of disabled children who are having their respite services removed ... It is very clear that these parents are under terrible pressure. Due to a penny wise, pound foolish HSE initiative, which the Minister approves, they will lose their respite care. Parents who are getting on in years cannot cope without it and will give up, much and all as it will hurt them to do so, and these children will end up in full-time care, costing the State many multiples of the money required to provide respite care.

Those are the words of Deputy James Reilly, then Fine Gael health spokesperson, speaking in this House on 7 July 2010. This is the Minister who, with his Cabinet colleagues by means of budget 2013, has cut the respite care grant, in one of the meanest attacks on the vulnerable in many years. The Minister is also trebling prescription charges for medical card-holders. The quotation I have cited was from the debate on the Bill introduced by the former Minister, Mary Harney, to impose prescription charges.

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