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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Tánaiste: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney] Increased funding of more than €4 million for the Legal Aid Board will improve provision of legal advice to vulnerable families. A few days ago, the Government announced the new Abhaile service to help those who are insolvent and in mortgage arrears. Some €2.4 million of the additional €4 million provided to the Legal Aid Board will be used to deliver the Abhaile service and provide legal aid to those who are at risk of losing their homes.

An additional €1 million has been provided for Traveller initiatives. In addition, the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy David Stanton, is working on a new strategy on the issue of Travellers. A further €2.7 million has been provided in respect of Garda youth diversion and Irish Youth Justice Service community programmes. I am also pleased that we have been able to provide an additional €250,000 to those working with victims groups. We will shortly introduce a Bill on victims which will bring Ireland fully into compliance with the EU victims directive.

The budget is another stepping stone towards a better, fairer society and I look forward to implementing its provisions over the coming year in collaboration with colleagues on all sides of the House.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I would like to take the House back one year to the previous budget and remind Deputies of the circumstances in which it was debated and what happened at that time. This time last year, we had in place the Economic Management Council where four people dictated the budget to the House and it was debated, rubber-stamped and passed. It was the year when the guillotine was used, the Government had a large majority, there was little room for manoeuvre or change and the Opposition was overwhelmed by a powerful Executive that dictated what happened in this Chamber.

This year, the budget comes to the House in utterly different circumstances. It was decided by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, at least seven Independents, a number of rural Independent Deputies and God knows who else. Power has moved from the Government side, where it was centred in a very small Executive that decided crucial financial measures, and has moved towards the middle of the House where it is shared by various parties. The decisions taken in this budget, the measures it sets out and the inputs in the process came about in a unique and different manner. It is a great tribute to all parties that they came together to produce a budget of this sort, which has been successfully endorsed by the House and has not been dictated by the Executive. That is something which we, in the Independent Alliance, strove to achieve in our charter. We stated in our manifesto that what we wanted, above all, was for power to be taken from a small cabal, whether it be Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael, and transferred to the House in order that decisions would be taken by people who were truly the representatives of the people. That is what happened in this budget.

Some critics have argued that we have spread what was available too thinly. The number of people who had an input into the budget means it is fair overall. This was one of our primary objectives and one we are proud has been achieved. We are also proud that the Dáil has power again. We are even proud that the budget is the result of long negotiations between parties and individuals because that is the way this Dáil operates and will continue to operate. Rather than having one side dictating to the other, there will be mature and sometimes robust and difficult negotiation. That is what has happened in this budget and it has been a successful operation.

The Independent Alliance is also proud that we had a major input into the budget, although I will not claim that it was exclusive in any area. I refer not only the input in the area of rural affairs from the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Canney, and Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran, principally from our side, the input into health and disabilities from the Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, and the measures on research and development on which the Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, had a major say, but also our input into those areas of the budget process that were covered and understandably claimed by others.

We are also proud that we represented elderly citizens, an area on which Fianna Fáil also takes pride in its input. We are proud that we achieved a further restoration of the Christmas bonus and that prescription charges have been reduced as a result of late and tense negotiations between the Independent Alliance and the Fine Gael Party. We would like the House and members of the public to know about and acknowledge this role.

It is not appropriate for the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party to state in the House that his party negotiated the reduction in prescription charges. That is an unlikely scenario given that it was not mentioned at any other stage. I have another comment to make to the leader of Fianna Fáil. In saying well done to him on his party's input in many areas, which was good and welcome, I should also say that I found it a little strange when he stated he wanted me, as Minister, to make various announcements and asked what I had been doing.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien What about metro north?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross The Deputy should not worry; metro north is coming.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien The Minister has announced a big review.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross Deputy Micheál Martin should be careful and have patience because one does not do everything in six months or by announcements. Before he gets carried away with the power he undoubtedly holds in this House and with his willingness to attack Ministers for not delivering enormous achievements in their first six months in office, let me remind him of some of the times he seems to have forgotten. As a former Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin leaves a great legacy known as the Health Service Executive.

Deputy Marc MacSharry: Information on Marc MacSharry Zoom on Marc MacSharry He also introduced the smoking ban.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross When he was the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Martin was known as the Minister for reports.

Deputy Darragh O'Brien: Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien By whom? Was it the Sunday Independent?

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross Let me give some facts. As Minister, Deputy Martin ordered review after review. How much did these reviews cost in total? Was it €100,000 or €200,000? During the period in question, he ordered 115 reviews costing €30 million. This is a man who found it difficult to make a decision. In addition to ordering 115 reviews in his time as Minister for Health and Children, he spent €13.8 million on management consultancy fees and ordered 30 reports for which no costings were available. Today, I reckon one could build several stadiums with the money he spent on reports and it would certainly cover the annual subvention to CIE or one of its divisions. Let us not take lectures from Deputy Martin on making announcements when his prime achievement was spending money on consultancy reports, some of which he did not even read.

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