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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath]  I have been dealing with Revenue for 30 years, now going on for 31 years, and have yet to get a deferral from it. Moreover, if one gets a deferral, one will have the luxury of getting a 4% increase, in addition to the money one owes. That is a nice deferral. I would not like to deal with all my customers like that or rather, if that is the way I was treating them, I would like to do so. If one simply is unable to pay, one will have the pleasure of the imposition of an additional 8% penalty.

In what world is the Minister living? I note Deputy Durkan has arrived in the Chamber and am glad someone has come to support the Minister. The Deputy also has been in this House for a long time and as everyone here has the same mandate, I will not take that from any of the Members opposite. Despite Deputy Bannon's apparent view that I am a reject from some place else, I tell him I am a reject from nowhere and never will be, although if he continues in that fashion, he may be very soon. All Members of this House will be rejected if the Minister attempts to impose this tax on people who cannot pay. For example, he should consider those rural people who wished to build a house for themselves. They bought sites, hired planners and architects and paid their planning fees, development charges, stamp duty and legal fees. Moreover, they are attempting to pay back their mortgages as best they can and many of them are in huge negative equity. However, the Minister proposes to impose a property tax, a so-called local tax. Members know what will happen in this regard. The revenues will not be spent locally and even if they are, they will go first to the county managers, as well as the directors of services and all the senior officials, who will be paid anyway before any potholes will be filled or any services provided in rural Ireland.

I make the following point to the Minister and his officials, for whom I have no personal disrespect. Some of the mandarins in the Department of Finance, who are isolated and insulated, drew up this €500 million tax on the grounds that it is soft money which will easily be brought in. They thought they would not make a mess similar to the one they made last year with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, namely, big Phil the regressor. They decided they would not make a bags of it, like last year - Members should excuse the expression, but would give responsibility to Revenue, which does not have much to do at present because so many business people are out of business. Many Revenue Commissioners staff have nothing to do because they have so few people from whom to take money. In turn, this is because the business all have closed down as a result of the policies of the present Administration, its predecessor and several Governments before that. It also is because of the policies of the permanent Government, who do not understand what it is to be obliged to earn a day's pay, to pay rates, to pay taxes or to pay anything else because they are cushioned. I never saw this so clearly as when the then Minister, Brian Lenihan, God rest him, introduced the pension levy. However, he reversed it for a small cohort of people. Where was that cohort? It was the people who were in his office every day of the week and had access to him. Although they persuaded him to go back on it, yet the man on the shovel and the clerical officer were obliged to pay it. That was one of the slippery slopes the country went down and they are continuing-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy McGrath, you are moving away from the section.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I acknowledge I am well away from it but as a guillotine has been imposed, all bets are off as far as I am concerned.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt No, we are not-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The biggest bet on this one-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, please.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I wish to leave time for my colleague.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Yes.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am nearly finished. Noiméid amháin má's é do thoil é.

I am glad that one or two more Government Members have arrived. The Minister should be aware that the public is watching this debate and with no disrespect to him, how does he intend to get blood out of a stone? They do not have it. I have customers who could not pay me and I never got it but simply was obliged to do without it. Consequently, the Government cannot get this money. As for giving responsibility to Revenue, I have dealt with it, it has many good people and I had a reasonable relationship with it over the years. However, if I could not pay, the sheriff was the man who got the task. While I could deal with Revenue, I could not deal with the sheriff. Is this what is going to happen? Will we have the sheriff and gardaí breaking down doors with their truncheons? Is this what the Minister intends to force on the people? This is what is staring Members in the face in the name of the troika. While the Minister may state the Government had no choices, it had dozens of choices. The Minister had the choice of doing what the vintners asked him to do, which was to tax the drink being sold at below cost in supermarkets, from which a billion euro could be brought in. The Minister also had the choice of taxing the very well-off and of means testing the children's allowance. While the Department of Social Protection will tell one it cannot do it, a sixth-class student with a computer and a friend could do it. We have a lethargic and inept Civil Service that states it cannot be done but that game is over. The Minister and the officials have been found out.

I appeal to the Minister not to bring in this Bill and not to guillotine it tonight because the Minister and I both know what will happen. The people cannot pay. They are a proud people who like to and have paid their way but they will not go back to the likes of the Peep o' Day Boys and the landlords burning the thatch in the houses. According to Deputy Bannon, they will not have roofs on those houses. He seeks to rebuild all the listed houses, such as the one Deputy James Reilly has, below in Moneygall. Perhaps the Minister will exempt them but will kill the little people. I ask the Minister to look into his conscience - I know he has one although I am unsure about some of his colleagues - and ask whether this is honest, right, fair or proper. I again ask the Minister to withdraw the guillotine and to have some semblance of respect for and understanding of the ordinary people of Ireland.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae First, as all Members are aware, the Minister is a politician of great experience and ability who is highly regarded in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Moreover, I only say that because I mean it. Equally, however, his experience will lead him to know about the people Members on this side of the House are speaking about this evening. They are talking about young couples who are put to the pin of their collars to try to pay their mortgages. Last Saturday, in common with my colleagues in the Chamber, I held my clinics. I met people, whose names I recorded in my book, who have left their houses because they cannot afford to live in the houses on which they are paying a massive mortgage. This week, they asked me the reason Members were going to allow the Government to introduce a property tax on property in which they cannot afford to live. I met a husband, his wife and their little child, who told me how they had moved back into her parents' house because they could not afford the oil, electricity or cost of living in their home, having built it at the height of the boom. They now are being told they are obliged to pay a property tax on it. I am grateful to Deputy Donnelly for outlining a great lie in this House, that is, Members who come into the Chamber and blindly support the Government, while giving the impression they are better off working within the Government because they can do things from within. I have a message for such Members this evening and I hope they are watching on their monitors. The people of whom I am thinking have not delivered a wheelbarrow of tar to their constituencies and could not deliver a lottery grant to their constituencies.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Jackie Healy-Rae got plenty of tar.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae The Minister is smiling because he knows what I am talking about. There are places - and this is no laughing matter - where people approached Government-supporting Deputies for a lottery grant. They would have as good a chance of going to Santa Claus, because those backbenchers will never deliver anything, even if they live forever on that side of the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt We will get back to the Bill.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I am on the Bill, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I am here to speak up for those people and I wish to lay the lie about the better Government services. The inexperience of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar, shows every now and then and he let the cat out of the bag when he suggested that if people want to have their roads tarred, they will be obliged to make a contribution themselves. This was a new one and had Deputy Varadkar the Minister's experience, he would not have come out with that last week, but would have waited until after Christmas. However, he will learn. If the Government puts forward the story that the property tax is being levied to bring in money to do work for people, while at the same time it tells them they will be obliged to pay on the double, people will not stand for that, because they simply do not have the money. It was a horrible experience a little while ago to listen to a person trying to defend the indefensible while talking about old houses and how they should be protected. I have as much respect for old houses as anyone but the houses in which I am interested are those with young families inside them tonight.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae The houses in which I am interested are those where there are young children looking forward to Santa Claus. Moreover, while everyone knows Santa Claus will come to them, it will be no thanks to the Government.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Thank Santa Claus.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath It might tax Santa Claus.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Those genuine young couples had a better time during the boom, when their expectations were that the work would continue for them. However, they now find the work is gone, they are left with a massive mortgage and they can see what the Government and the Deputies who support it are doing to them. Moreover, those Deputies should not think they will be able to hide behind the massive majority the Government enjoys because the people, thanks be to God, are extremely intelligent. All sorts of promises were made, to the effect that Fianna Fáil was the worst crowd in the world, its members did everything wrong and everything was done against the people. However, people now can perceive that those who were shouting and crowing from the Opposition side and who were calling for the chance whereby they would do everything right now have power. I am sick to death of hearing Members on the Government side of the House blaming Fianna Fáil every day. One would swear to God that Fianna Fáil was still in power because they still are blaming Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan Their effects are still being felt.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Deputy Durkan, relax.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Order, please.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae While they still are blaming Fianna Fáil, they have forgotten there has been the small matter of an election. They now have the biggest majority in the history of the State. What is the Government doing with it?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy-----

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae It is cutting the carer's-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Deputy, as it now is 7.30 p.m. and we are moving on to Private Members' business, I ask you to report progress.


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