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Financial Resolutions 2017

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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

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Financial Resolutions 2017\Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

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Deputy Mattie McGrath

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Mattie McGrath

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Snippet Contents:

On the rejuvenation of rural Ireland, I spoke earlier about the many derelict sites in our towns. There are also derelict sites in our villages. Under a new initiative, the county councils can acquire derelict sites and sell them on. Whatever is done to remove these blights from our landscape must be supported.
The post office is the hub of every village and community yet there is still no broadband service available in many rural areas. The post mistress is the first to notice when an elderly person does not turn up to collect his or her pension or a staff member does not turn up to work. The lives of many people who had strokes or accidents and so on were saved because the alarm was raised by the post mistress. There will be no one to ring the alarm bells anymore because of the closure of post offices. That we cannot enable some form of banking, in terms of council services and so on, to be through our post offices beggars belief. There are too many people pulling the strings and paying only lip-service to the post office. Staff at the Department of Social Protection continue to issue letters to social welfare payment recipients advising them to have payments paid into their bank accounts. We all know what happened when this was tried in the UK and other countries. It is a retrograde step that will result in the disappearance of post offices.
On justice and the Garda Síochána, I welcome the recruitment of additional gardaí, the strength of which should never have been allowed to reach such a low level. I also welcome the support for the text alert scheme. The amount provided is only €100 per text alert group but the service is an invaluable resource. The community alert groups must also be supported. We need community gardaí. I acknowledge the great work being done by the community gardaí in Clonmel, including Sergeant Kieran O'Regan and others. People need somebody familiar to speak to. They do not want to have to engage with unknown gardaí or to see a Garda car driving around their area and then leaving again. We need more community gardaí. One of the community gardaí in my area, Garda Niall O'Halloran, is exceptional. The people know him. He is of the community and people are happy to engage with him. I am talking not about informants but about people giving information in regard to strange vehicles and people that should not be an area to An Garda Síochána. This helps in the protection of their communities, families and children and makes their areas safer. I am often asked what is community alert, to which my response is that community alert is about everyone, including me, using their eyes and ears and taking note of what is happening in their areas. I welcome the changes made in this area.
An additional €490 million is being provided for health services, including €500 million for the winter initiative programme, which amounts to almost €1 billion in funding for this year. Almost €1 billion was provided last year too. Where is all this funding going? It is going into a big black hole and being sucked away without any accountability in terms of value for money or better outcomes. We are all aware of the pressure on our accident and emergency departments. Not one cent is provided in this budget for South Tipperary and Clonmel hospitals, both of which have been starved of investment for years. There has been much talk about hospital hotels, which is silly talk that annoys and upsets the electorate. We need proper investment, including in the hospital in Cashel which was closed 20 years ago. Despite the fact €20 million was spent on that hospital, it is not possible to open it to provide step down beds which would relieve pressure on our accident and emergency departments. We need better outcomes. Private general practitioners in Clonmel have excellent diagnostic facilities. In other areas in Cork and Kerry people have to wait six or eight weeks for diagnostic appointments and are being advised to seek private appointments which are being paid for by the HSE. The roll-out of this initiative could help to reduce waiting lists and lead to better outcomes but progress on it is being held up by some of the mandarins in the HSE who want to retain control of their little fiefdoms. There are 30% to 40% more managers in the HSE now than there were in 2007. Throughout the crisis, when people on the front line were losing their jobs, including gardaí, nurses, doctors, council workers and so on, there was growth at managerial level in the HSE. If we could get our hands on some of the millions being spent on these people and invest it in house construction we would improve house provision overnight. We cannot do that, however, because the HSE has control. I wish the new Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, well in dealing with the many issues in the health area that need to be addressed. Quite frankly, money provided for this sector is going astray.
We recently learned during a Private Members' motion debate in this House of the over-charging of the HSE by a large pharmaceutical company. I have heard many people say how great it is that the company paid back every penny it owed. If a pensioner or an ill person took drugs from a pharmacy without paying for them, he or she would be arrested and charged. The amount involved in the Lloyds case is enormous. It only repaid that money when it was found out. I believe there are wheels within wheels. This happened on the nod and the wink and I am sure it is happening in other areas as well.
My budget submission also contained a proposal in regard to a land tax to address the issue of the gobbling up of vast areas of land in Tipperary, Limerick and in the midlands by conglomerates which are involved in the equine industry. I salute them for their prowess in the equine industry, on what they have achieved and the employment they provide but this land grabbing has to stop. We need a land commission and a progressive tax that will stop these conglomerates pumping millions of euros into thousands of acres of land, such that a farmer wishing to increase the viability of a farm to enable him or her to earn sufficient income to keep his or her family cannot buy ten or 20 acres located beside these lands. I do not need to mention the names of those involved: everyone knows who they are. They have been well able to lecture us on how to run our businesses. They got tax breaks from the late Charles Haughey, God rest him, which were needed at the time to stimulate the industry but we need a level playing field now to ensure fair play for all. In this regard, we need to establish a land agency or to introduce a wealth tax on lands of over 750 acres. They should not be permitted to buy up lands of 16,000 or 17,000 acres. I am hearing horror stories on a daily basis about families in Tipperary who are up to their necks in debt because they borrowed money to invest in dairy farming and so on and are unable to buy a piece of additional land or afford to keep going. These conglomerates move in with their cheque books and buy the land. In some cases, the land is purchased even before the "for sale" sign goes up. There are many banks, touts, auctioneers and so on involved in this murky business. We got rid of the landlords once but they are now back in a different guise. These ones are probably even worse than the others. We do not need all of our land to be owned by conglomerates. We need farming families to be supported so that can live with dignity and respect and participate in their communities.