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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Does the Deputy have a question?

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We are facing the incredible scenario where somebody whose house could be repossessed in the coming year-----

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I told the Deputy that five or six years ago.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin -----will also be asked to pay a property tax.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is over time.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is no fairness in this tax. There is no attempt to allow for ability to pay or to provide for exemptions.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Deputy Martin and his party signed on for a property tax.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea No, we did not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Like St. Augustine, he wants to be made pure but not just yet. He cannot deny his record in this regard.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The Taoiseach should read his own party's manifesto.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Fianna Fáil signed on for a property tax. This Government is introducing what we consider a fair and progressive property tax.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputies, please.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Read the manifesto, where a property tax is described as "unfair".

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy Martin already had his say.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I note that the Fianna Fáil spokesman on finance said yesterday that the requirement of the troika to provide legal clarity to the procedural aspects of the 2009 legislation introduced by the previous Administration, which was adjudicated on by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, would lead to a rash of house repossessions. That is untrue. The situation in so far as the mortgage market is concerned - and it has been so for very many years - is that banks lend on the basis that they will be repaid and where circumstances do not permit that to happen, repossessions have taken place.

Let us be very clear on this. It is the intention of the Government that clarity be provided to that aspect of the law which Ms Justice Dunne found insufficient or inadequate. There is no intention of having, as the Fianna Fáil spokesman said, a rash of house repossessions. The number of repossessions in this country has been exceptionally small and we intend to keep it that way.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are over time.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny House ownership is very important for people in this country and we respect and understand that. We want to keep that process whereby the level of repossessions will be exceptionally low.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Government is putting the banks first and home owners second.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am calling Deputy Gerry Adams.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is very important that people know and understand that the house they live is in their home and that it will be kept in their possession.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I have told the Taoiseach that we are over time.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny That is why the Personal Insolvency Bill is being introduced, to allow further options for people that will enable them to retain their family homes, which is so important for everybody in the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask the Taoiseach to recognise the Chair. I have called Deputy Gerry Adams.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Gabh mo leithscéal, a Cheann Comhairle.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Yesterday I asked the Taoiseach a number of appropriate and pertinent questions about the Government's cuts to the incomes of lower and middle-income families, to child benefit, maternity benefit and particularly the respite care grant. His practice increasingly in defending bad policy decisions which are scrutinised by Sinn Féin is cynically to use the recent conflict in the North as a distraction from his own decisions. That is what he did yesterday. It is a deliberate strategy which diminishes the Office of the Taoiseach and the Government and insults all of those who have suffered in the course of the recent conflict. I am in the North every week and there is turbulence there at this time.

A Deputy: There was turbulence there for 30 years.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I want to have all of these issues debated in this Chamber. I also want to have this bad budget debated in an informed way.

  My specific appeal to the Taoiseach yesterday was to reverse the despicable cut to the respite care grant. He did not answer me and I am making the appeal again. I know the Taoiseach does not like me putting these questions, so he should forget about me for a second.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Will Members please allow the Deputy to ask his question?

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I am sure he has read in today's Irish Examiner the letter from Mr. Pat O'Mahony, husband and carer to Margaret, who wants the Taoiseach to reverse the cut to the respite care grant. Will the Taoiseach respond to Mr. O'Mahony? Let us forget about Sinn Féin and all of these other issues. Here is a citizen writing to the Government and asking for these cuts to be reversed. Will the Taoiseach do so, le do thoil?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I would say there are a lot of people who would like to forget about Sinn Féin, but Deputy Adams's mandate in this House is not to allow that to happen.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Taoiseach should respect our mandate.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The position is that the Government gave very careful consideration to this budget, which is essentially about providing an opportunity to restore our public finances to good health, grow our economy and provide the capacity to create jobs. That is the central thrust of the budget. All of those people who are on social protection, are unemployed or low paid will never have the opportunity to have a better lifestyle and better opportunities unless we deal with the central structural faults in our economy.

The reduction in the respite care grant will not be reversed.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Taoiseach has given us a lot of hot air.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The budget has been decided by the Government. We have made the decision not to cut the old age pension, not to take away the travel allowance, not to cut the free fuel allowance or shorten the period for which it applies, not to interfere in any way with the carer's allowance or the home care packages. The Government made the decision to continue to pay a respite care grant of €1,375. I would like if it were more than that. I know many Pat O'Mahonys who look after their kith and kin. I have spoken to many of these people and I know it is a draining experience. This is a situation where the Government has to make difficult choices. Home care packages and the carer's allowance have been retained and an additional €20 million is being pumped into supports for the disabled and carers. The Government has made the difficult choice to continue to pay an unconditional grant to carers of €1,375. The budget as presented by the Minister for Finance will stand and will be put to a vote.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Shame on you, Taoiseach.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Taoiseach's opening sentence gives an insight into the Government's thinking. Did the Taoiseach and his colleagues give this matter careful consideration? If he missed it, if it did not come on his agenda for some reason or other, that would at least have been understandable, but it seems he did give it careful consideration after all. He does not, however, seem to have given careful consideration, although perhaps he did, to cutting his own salary or the salaries of Ministers and their advisers. Careful consideration was not apparently given to the bankers who are on huge pensions or are still, even though they helped to create the mess we are in, drawing down huge salaries.

I do not know Pat O'Mahony or his wife Margaret, but I know lots of people like them. Mr. O'Mahony writes this morning that the Taoiseach does not give a fiddler's for him and his wife. He is right. The Taoiseach has just said that he will not reverse the cut to a payment on which this man and his wife depend to get through life. The Taoiseach was not sent into this Chamber to do this. He and his party sought an entirely different mandate, as did the Labour Party. They are doing the very opposite of what they were sent in here to do. This Administration is totally indistinguishable from the Fianna Fáil Government it replaced.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Hear, hear.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams I am asking the Taoiseach again to reflect on this.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are over time.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams This is not him being tough - in fact, it is the easy choice. Being tough would be standing up to the golden elites, the financiers and the big people in our society, not the small people.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Like the Deputy, I do not know Mr. O'Mahony or his wife Margaret. I am sure that in the letter he has written to the newspaper he expresses his feelings very powerfully and more cogently than any of us could do, because he deals with this 24 hours per day.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams He invites the Taoiseach to switch places with him for a short time.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The choice to be made by the Government was do we cut the widow's pensions, the old age pension-----

(Interruptions).

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams What about bankers' pensions?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Taoiseach has only one minute to reply. I ask Deputies to allow him to do so.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Do we reduce the half-rate carer's allowance, take away the facilities pensioners are entitled to at the moment, or interfere with the home care package and the carer's allowance? What choices does one make?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Do we cut the Taoiseach's salary, Tánaiste's salary or ministerial salaries?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy is always complaining about being interrupted. The Taoiseach should be allowed to reply.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The choice made here was to continue to pay a respite grant of €1,375.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Disgraceful.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny At the same time, the Government has set its face here in taking an additional €500 million from those who can afford to pay, which is obviously a very serious decision. I hear more crowing from Deputy Adams's left-hand side. I remind Deputy Micheál Martin that in 2009-----

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We are back to me again.

(Interruptions).

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are over time. Will the Taoiseach respect the Chair?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Here is some ammunition for Deputy Adams.


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