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

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Some 300 businesses are closing on a weekly basis. That is what is called mayhem.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The fact of the matter is that everybody with a titter of wit knows the state of the economy we inherited. They know the dysfunctional circumstances into which the country was plunged.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín The Labour Party broke its promises.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte They know now that stability has been restored to the governance of this country. They know that the reputation of this country has been restored. We have a thriving export sector.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Exporting people, through emigration.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte We have the healthiest IDA pipeline we have ever had. Last year, we had the best year we have had for ten years in terms of foreign direct investment. We have difficulties in the consumer economy, but it is not difficult to understand why that should be the case. We are addressing these issues, and against all the odds have managed to bring home a budget under constraints. This is the sixth time the people have had to endure cutbacks because of the gap between our spending and our revenue.

We will never return to having 17% of the population involved in construction. Any normal economy has approximately 8% involved in construction. Right now, we have only 3% involved in construction, and we must try to increase this. The challenge is to recast the entire economy, and that is what we are working towards.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald The challenge is not to be so pompous towards women and children.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte We now have the real prospect, if stability returns to the eurozone, of faster growth in this economy than in similar economies elsewhere. Sinn Féin is playing parliamentary games and one-upmanship in the context of whether this motion would create more damage than would the continuation of the budget debate or the debate on the X case. If creating mayhem with a motion of no confidence would create more disruption, then it will go for that. The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin is having no impact with this motion. Everybody recognises that it is a joke and will see through it for the joke it is. There is serious business confronting this Parliament that must be done and Sinn Féin is simply-----

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty We know what the Government plans to do in a couple of hours.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue Order, please. The Minister's time is up.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I want to welcome Deputy Doherty back. He was kept under wraps for three or four months. I have never been able to find out why. He is a very energetic young man and I do not know why he has been kept under wraps. With the bleating from him and his colleagues-----

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Minister should define what the serious business he has mentioned is.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte -----one would think they were keeping the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in business.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie McConalogue): Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue The Minister's time is up.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I greatly regret that, because I was only getting started.

Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin We greatly regret it too, because the Minister is the best of craic.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams The Minister has just left, but I wanted to tell him that the reason Deputy Doherty was not around was that he buried his father over the summer. I ask the Minister's colleagues to please convey that information to him.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley When the Government came to power, the Taoiseach proclaimed we would have a democratic revolution. I could use many words to describe the Taoiseach, but he is certainly not the leader of a democratic revolution. Over the past 20 months, what we have seen is not a democratic revolution but a seamless transition of power from Fianna Fáil to Fine Gael and the Labour Party. There is very little difference between the National Recovery Plan 2011-2014, produced by Fianna Fáil in the dying days of the last government, and the programme being rolled out by the two parties in government currently. I checked the Fianna Fáil programme in recent days and was amazed by the similarities between it and the current programme.

Fine Gael and the Labour Party are happily implementing the policies contained in the old Fianna Fáil programme. They are introducing water meters, water charges and a household charge of €100 per annum, which will from next year, as a property tax, bring in €500 million per annum. All of these measures were invented by Fianna Fáil but are being implemented by the current Government. Fianna Fáil committed to cutting staffing levels in the public service. Fine Gael and the Labour Party have gone further.

The Labour Party has failed those who voted for it. It has failed to introduce the transformative change the Tánaiste promised before it came into power. Particular issues that have met fierce resistance are the proposed water charges and household tax. In case Labour Party members have forgotten what they stated in their manifesto last year, they said that the Labour Party does not favour water charges while the immediate needs of those who currently receive intermittent or poor water supplies are not addressed. However, now that the party is in government, things are different. It now proposes to use the National Pensions Reserve Fund to install water meters for each household so that households can be charged for water. In reality, the Labour Party has been willing to support two budgets that have been regressive, divisive and unjust.

In commenting on last year's budget, the ESRI stated that a combination of taxes and welfare changes imposed greater losses on those on lower incomes. According to groups commenting this year, the same is due to happen again. Promises not to cut child benefit were trampled on in the rush to get around the Cabinet table. Meanwhile, this year's budget has brought further cuts and pain for the low- and middle-income households.

A Labour Party member, former councillor Bronwyn Maher, addressing a party meeting in Liberty Hall last Saturday, said: "The budget was not fair or equal, and has disproportionately affected the lower paid." I could not have put it better myself. In a desperate attempt to reclaim some dignity, some Labour Party Deputies are writing to constituents saying that it was a priority to ensure the budget was as fair as possible under the economic circumstances, and that those who have the most will pay the most. That is not how it has turned out. It has turned out the very opposite. In all seriousness, one could hardly remain straight-faced saying that. It is a desperate attempt by a desperate Government to try spin its way out of trouble.

The uncomfortable truth those on the Government benches must own up to is that the cuts in budget 2013 are there for all to see. Jobseeker's allowance has been cut to nine months. Respite care, child benefit, back-to-school clothing allowance and farm assist payments for the lowest-income farmers have all been cut. Educational allowances for those returning to education have also been cut. Cuts have also been made to exceptional needs payments, telephone and gas allowances, funding for third level education and funding for VECs, which are currently operating on a shoestring. PRSI has increased for the low-paid and increases have been announced in college fees, motor tax and VRT. All of these cuts and increased charges punish low- and middle-income groups.

Under the Labour Party and Fine Gael, no one earning less than €100,000 was supposed to pay more income tax. This Labour Party election promise has been shredded. Next year, those earning the least will have to pay more from their incomes because of increased PRSI. This will place a huge burden on low-income households. The combination of cuts and increased taxes will put a huge burden on people, particularly those in rural areas. People in urban areas already feel the pinch because they have been hit with increased transport costs. I call on the Government to sit up and take note of what it is doing, as it is very difficult for us to have confidence when we see what is happening.

Let me highlight one issue under the remit of a Labour Party Minister which is causing difficulties: SUSI, which deals with the allocation and administration of third level grants. Sinn Féin has been trying to phone the Oireachtas helpline with regard to this issue. This helpline is not the one used by the general public, so things must be much worse for them. We have spent the past three or four days trying to ring the helpline, but we cannot get an answer. The mailbox is full and we cannot send mail. We can get no answers on an issue as basic as this. The previous system was administered by county councils and VECs and although it was not perfect and needed improvement, it functioned. Now there is total failure. We cannot get a response on the phone, the mailbox is full, and the first term is almost over for students.

We cannot have confidence in the Government when it has failed to deal with bank debt and the mortgage crisis and to implement a strategy for jobs and sustainable growth. The Government has passed its sell-by date.

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