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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed)

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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed)

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Deputy Mary Lou McDonald

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Snippet Contents:

Budgets are all about political choices. They are also about the interests that a government seeks to represent. Budget 2016 shows once again that Fine Gael and, to its very great shame, the Labour Party, represent the interests of the privileged few in Irish society. Following the calamity of the economic crash under the last Fianna Fáil-led Government, Fine Gael and Labour assumed office with a huge mandate for political change. However, as citizens have learned to their cost, nothing has changed. Nowhere is this more obvious than in yesterday's budget.
Budget 2016 is an election budget, focused entirely on the short term, without strategic considerations for the longer term or for the public good. In its budget, the Government mimics exactly the boom-bust approach of Fianna Fáil. It is as brazen in playing for electoral advantage as any Fianna Fáil Government. Its budget is a cynical ploy to throw crumbs to specific interest groups in an effort to secure re-election in the months ahead. Sin é. Ach níl muintir na tíre seo chomh dúr sin. Cé go síleann an Rialtas seo gur amadáin iad, le blianta beaga anuas tá ciall cheannaithe ag go leor saoránach.
Since entering Government, Fine Gael and Labour have picked up where Fianna Fáil left off, targeting average families and vulnerable citizens for cruel cuts and unfair taxes like water charges and the family home tax. The Government likes to talk about a recovery but average families have not seen much evidence of this recovery. It is true that things have got better for some but, for the vast majority, little has changed. Tá an téarnamh seo, mar dhea, míchóir agus míchothrom.
The Government has unnecessarily prolonged the recession for the vast majority of our people. It has also caused huge damage to our public services and local communities, and its budget does not wipe that slate clean. The adverse social consequences of eight years of austerity budgets, first by Fianna Fáil and subsequently by Fine Gael and Labour, will take years to resolve. In successive budgets, Fine Gael and Labour have attacked the most vulnerable. I will give a snapshot of their high achievement. They indiscriminately imposed a blanket water tax and family home tax and they abolished the €300 cost of education allowance. They cut jobseeker's allowance and were only short of packing the bags of young people and driving them to the airport to encourage them to leave. They cut child benefit despite promises to the contrary, cut the back to school allowance, cut the fuel allowance by six weeks, or €120, and cut the respite care grant by €325. They introduced a tax on maternity benefit and abolished the bereavement grant. They cut invalidity pension for 65 year olds by €36.80 per week, cut rent supplement and cut the household benefits package. In total, in its first three budgets the Government slashed the education budget by €500 million and the health budget by €2.5 billion. That is some record.
Budget 2016 is a progression of the Government's socially delinquent approach, this time motivated by electoral considerations rather than done under the cover of the troika. It introduced more tax cuts that favour higher earners, and there has been more starving of public services and badly needed investment. The current crises in health and housing are not accidental but are a direct result of the policies of Fine Gael and Labour in government. Let us not forget that those people who lie on trolleys in accident and emergency wards are our own family members, our neighbours and our friends. They did not drop from outer space - they are us. Those households in mortgage distress and the citizens who find themselves homeless - they too are us. So too the 500,000 citizens scattered across the globe as a result of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour emigration policy. The Government has a duty to protect and defend the rights and entitlements of citizens; that is its first call. Instead, the Government has repeatedly attacked those rights and entitlements.
As a result of five years of Fine Gael-Labour Government, our society has become ever more polarised and unequal. This should be a matter of deep shame for the Tánaiste and the Labour Party. Budget 2016 again sees Fine Gael and Labour perpetuating a lie that it is possible to reduce the overall tax take, possible to stand off high earners and wealth, while at the same time maintaining and building front-line services. It is a lie.