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Finance (Local Property Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 [Private Members]: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 806 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín] A good proportion of the tax will go to pay unguaranteed, unsecured debt. The Fine Gael and Labour method of collecting this debt is actually brutal. The Government is prepared to loot salaries, social welfare payments and pensions. If the payment is deferred until the death of the individual, Fine Gael and Labour will come knocking on the door looking for the money from the struggling family. Contrast that method with the method that the Government has arranged for struggling families waiting for years for maintenance due to them. The cant we hear from the Government is that there is no alternative, this is the only way it can be done. Year on year, Sinn Féin has costed alternative budgets for this Government to take into consideration. Wealth taxes are successful in Europe. We have put forward a third rate of tax standardisation, discretionary taxes and many other suggestions.

  The Government talks about the North. There is a book in Easons entitled, The Idiot’s Guide to Constitutional Politics which explains clearly at Junior Certificate level the difference between the situations in the North and South of Ireland. We do not have fiscal powers in the North of Ireland. We are doing our damnedest to get them back and it would be great if the Minister got off his arse and helped us as well.

Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey Has Sinn Féin introduced any Bills up there to repeal rates?

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín In conclusion, what happened to the alter ego of Deputy Enda Kenny?

Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey It is happy to spend them and claim the credit.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín The Opposition alter ego of Deputy Enda Kenny said "It is morally unjust and unfair to tax a person's home and by so doing grind him into the ground." We are seeing a flip-flop Taoiseach who makes a habit of saying one thing in opposition and doing the opposite in government.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan Sinn Féin is absolutely opposed to taxing the family home and when in government we will repeal this draconian and blatantly unfair tax. The idea of taxing the family home is, by any stretch of the imagination, bad economic policy. In the current climate where almost 500,000 people are out of work and one in four mortgages is in distress, this tax makes no sense. Indeed, this tax is further evidence of the lengths that Fine Gael and Labour, and Fianna Fáil before them, will go to in order to keep their monetary masters in the ECB and the IMF happy.

The real import of this tax is that it imposes even more hardship on ordinary people who are already stretched to the limits of their financial capabilities. The policies of austerity and the neoliberal political project that accompanies it have destroyed the economic and social fabric of this country. This Government responds with even more savage cuts to welfare, cuts to mobility allowances, cuts in home-help hours, cuts to youth services in already disadvantaged areas, cuts to special needs assistants and cuts to vital educational services for Travellers who already experience institutional discrimination. We are now in a situation where the policies of austerity so beloved of this Government mean that we have an entire public service, be it health, public housing, transport or education, that is being dismantled at a time when now more than ever ordinary people depend on the State for the provision of public goods and services. A state that cannot provide for its own people, that cannot and will not invest in its own society is by any standards, a failed state.

This Government has led us down a cul-de-sac and only a dramatic shift in policy will alter this situation. Yet we are told repeatedly that there are no options, that banks have to be bailed out and that austerity is the only show in town in terms of economic recovery. Sinn Féin rejects this flawed analysis as do the vast majority of people in Ireland and right across Europe. There are alternatives - it does not have to be like this.

That, however, would mean putting the people first and making political decisions that this Government that operates in the interest of the wealthy and the business classes has repeatedly refused to take. For example, by just clamping down on black market and false declarations the Government would raise €100 million. A 1% tax on wealth over €1 million would raise €800 million. The Government could, if it wanted to, apply PRSI to rental income and this alone would raise €20 million for the Exchequer. A 5% tax on shop, course and on-line gambling would raise a further €243.5 million. In terms of education, Fine Gael and Labour could raise €22 million over a five-year period by simply bringing an end to the State subsidy of private education. It is not right, just, or fair that the State is propping up an elitist system with public money that is urgently needed for children in State schools. In terms of health the Government could and should apply the full cost of private care in public hospitals. This would produce a saving of €432.5 million. It could deliver further savings by implementing generic substitution of branded medicines. The list goes on and on. It could cap Government salaries at €100,000, cap the pay of hospital consultants and introduce an emergency pay cap of €100,000 in the civil and public services for three years. This alone would produce a saving of €22 million. All of this requires political will and a genuine belief in the value of its own people and society.

More importantly, it requires a commitment to the health and well-being of all the people, not just the wealthy and the influential classes. It means that it has to have a genuine interest in the future prosperity of the young people who today have no other option but to emigrate in their thousands to Australia and Canada. In the final analysis it means putting Ireland's interests before the interests of faceless European bureaucrats and a pampered and well-connected home grown business class. Fine Gael can blather on all it likes about Sinn Féin in government in Stormont, an entity which does not control its own purse strings, but the fact remains that the policies of this Government are wreaking havoc on the lives and futures of people in every corner of the country.

Deputy Seán Crowe: Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe Many people, not just Sinn Féin Deputies or supporters, believe this tax is regressive, unfair and wrong and that it will create genuine hardship among people in the community. We know this crippling tax was the brainchild of the Fianna Fáil-Green Administration which crashed our economy, but this Government has passionately advocated in favour of this new tax and determinedly pushed ahead with its implementation. This tax is being pushed even though it makes no economic sense and hurts those on low incomes. There is common agreement that one in four mortgage holders are in mortgage distress and many others are stuck in homes whose value has dropped and on which they all paid large sums in stamp duty to the State and this Government wants more.

Our domestic economy is in stagnation. This tax will reduce disposable incomes and have a negative effect on consumer spending and, in turn, jobs. Many people will pay this tax, have paid this tax, but not because they agree with it. They have no choice. Revenue now has the power to raid pensions, social welfare payments and PAYE workers' incomes directly. That is a fact. How are individuals and families going to pay this tax? We know that elderly people are already going to bed earlier to reduce bills, families are skipping a meal or buying cheap cuts or no meat or fish on certain days, turning the heating on later or not turning it on at all. If this tax is implemented families will spend less on their weekly shopping because they have less. That is the concern I have.

The wealthy can afford to give more but we know from Government budgets that this is unlikely to happen. The wealthy are destined for more rewards. We hear Ministers on radio saying that they must reward the entrepreneurs and the wealthy but at the same time they are cutting the means of people who are at the end of their tether because they have no more money. Intimidated people will be forced to skip other bills because of this tax. The organisations that deal with people in these situations believe this new tax will lead to a deepening of fuel and child poverty. In 2012 a total of 20,000 people had their gas and electricity cut off because they could not pay. This figure will rapidly increase if this tax is pursued. We believe that there are alternatives to this tax.

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