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Snippet Contents:

Several weeks ago I spoke about the Budget Statement. In the past 24 hours problems with the Finance Bill for the farming community have been brought to my attention. The mothers and fathers of many young people in the farming community want them to take over the land, continue the tradition of farming and carry the baton to drive the agriculture industry forward as set down in Food Harvest 2020. Unfortunately, the Bill’s provisions on capital gains tax tell young people to get a ticket and get out of the country. The Bill states an active farmer must prove he or she spends not less than 50% of his or her working time farming, which is unrealistic. As Deputy Pearse Doherty said, from County Donegal to County Kerry, through the midlands, the income of a small holder farmer with ten to 20 cattle to sell every year will be between €10,000 and €15,000. If that farmer does not work 40 hours elsewhere, he or she could be in severe difficulty and have no future in making a sustainable living on the farm. When I was a young lad starting off in farming, I had to work off-farm. Every pound I earned I put back into the land. Many Deputies will know from visiting Roscommon-South Leitrim during the recent by-election that it is difficult farming land. All over the west, making land productive in wet conditions is a major problem. Up to 30% of farmers, be they large or small holders, are working to have an off-farm income because they cannot make a sustainable living on the land. Between 45% and 50% of suckler cow farmers have to have an alternative way to make a living to rear their families and send them to school. This issue must be addressed on Committee Stage. If it is not, many young farmers will not be able to afford to take over the family farm.
The Bill proposes to ring-fence stamp duty consanguinity relief to lifetime farm transfers between family members where the transferor is aged 65 years or under, but there is a problem coming down the track. What does the farmer who reaches 65 years old do for the year? What happens to those aged 66 or 67 years? We need to address this problem, too.
Every day in the Chamber, when one looks up to the Visitors Gallery, one always sees young children, the future of the country. Sadly, the education budget has been cut, with the removal of the minor works grant which helped to maintain the life and soul of rural schools. Each year, as the Minister is aware, the only moneys available to schools for essential repairs between September and the end of January were through this grant. I note that the Minister for Finance is a man of optimism, speaking about an economic growth rate of 4% and better. While it is great to have turned corners, the future of the country lies with our children in primary schools. If we take the minor works grant away, they will not be able to have an 11 a.m. or a 12.30 p.m. break because schools will have to close. Two days ago I had a parent on to me to explain that the boiler in their child’s school was ready to blow up and, unfortunately, that the school had no money to repair it. Parents fundraise day in, day out. Will the Department of Education and Skills, as well as the Minister for Finance, address this matter as soon as possible?
We all know that for the elderly, the very people who brought the country from A to B during the years, there is chaos in the fair deal scheme. We can go on talking about budgets, but in the end we need to examine the economics. It costs between €3,000 and €4,000 a week to keep an elderly person in a hospital bed, or between €800 and €900 a week in a nursing home, before they are let out under the fair deal system. It would make more economic sense to allow them to be cared for in their own homes, which would allow families to have their loved ones closer to them.
Will the Minister examine amendments to the Finance Bill to address these issues, particularly the farming issues which are causing much distress around the country?