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Snippet Contents:

The House should also remember that two years ago, the Taoiseach told us he was taking personal charge of ensuring that health stayed within budget and that there would be no more supplementaries.  Some €1.2 billion later, he has some explaining to do. There is little or no chance that the GP card extension will be in place next year and the first phase was delayed by nearly four years from its first announcement.  It has been funded by the removal of tens of thousands of medical cards from the elderly and families under pressure, and it represents a direct wealth transfer from the neediest in our society.
After five years of growing failure on health, this is all the Government has to campaign on. For all the posters promising no more trolleys and instant access for everyone, its health policies have been a shambles. I look forward to this being a core issue in the general election.
The Minister, Deputy Howlin, has introduced the tactic of announcing allocations which are automatic due to demographic changes as being "new" or "extra". The great bulk of the additional allocation to education is to cater for growth in pupil numbers, what we once called the "demographic dividend" and which was not even fought for between Ministers. For other improvements, the fact that only a third of a year needs to be shown in the 2016 figures has allowed Ministers to try and take the bare look off what has been a consistent targeting of education for disproportionate cuts. The bulk of the most regressive cuts, such as to guidance counsellors for disadvantaged schools and the abolition of postgraduate grants for poorer students, remains fully in place and part of a legacy on education of neglect and drift.
It was a brave decision of the Government to send its Ministers into the House to speak for over an hour but not once mention the biggest political and budgetary fiasco of many years. Irish Water was not imposed on this Government.  It was announced as Fine Gael policy years before the troika was ever heard of.  Neither were the form, content and size of the water charges imposed on the Government.  The troika confirmed that if Fine Gael and Labour had wanted to do something else, they could have.
We have the absurd situation where we are paying millions of euro to install meters which are not being used and will not be for the next seven years.  We have constructed a massive bureaucracy in order to impose a charge and another to give people some of the money back.  Some 1,200 people who fix pipes are to be laid off using money raised at a higher cost than State debt.