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Snippet Contents:

Yesterday my colleague Deputy Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin's spokesperson for finance, described the budget as profoundly lacking in any vision. I totally agree with him. It lacks any vision or any attempt to sketch out the most basic contours of what a fair Ireland could look like and what we might achieve. The Government, which remains in power only as long as Fianna Fáil deems it politically useful to further its own lust for power, squandered a real opportunity to produce an imaginative and progressive budget. Such a budget would have begun to grapple seriously with the enormous deficit we have in our shambolic public services. Instead, what we have is a budget that fails to tackle some of the most basic yet fundamental inequalities in our society.
Any attempt to put in place the building blocks of a universal health service free at the point of access and based on need is obviously now not even on the back burner. It is totally off the agenda. There was no attempt to deal with the issue of educational disadvantage, class sizes, third level funding or the restoration of the Traveller education grant. With regard to capital spending on infrastructure, the budget has failed miserably. Bizarrely, the big-ticket item for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the absence of the announcement of a single new project is an allocation of €25 million in additional funds for the regional and local roads programme. As noted by my colleague Deputy Imelda Munster, our spokesperson on transport, "€25 million is a pathetic allocation for road improvements on secondary and regional roads." By the Minister's and his Department's own admission, we need €3 billion to bring regional and local roads up to a reasonable standard. Therefore, we need €580 million per annum to keep the network in proper condition. The Minister's allocation of €275 million per year will actually ensure that our roads continue to deteriorate after almost a whole decade of neglect. This is another example of the Government's disinterest in the maintenance and provision of infrastructure outside the greater Dublin area.
The bottom line is that when we start to talk about investment in key public services, investment in infrastructure, capital spending, public transport, housing, education, training etc., Fine Gael and those propping it up do not seem to get it or care. All of the services I have listed above are considered necessary and, indeed, normal in European countries except, it seems, Ireland. It seems the political classes who run this State, including Fianna Fáil, could not care less about children sleeping in emergency accommodation, working families living in homeless shelters or the hundreds of thousands of workers who are left to eke out a meagre living while working long hours in poor, precarious working conditions. This is the very same political class that did, of course, look after itself. The Taoiseach and Ministers are in line for a huge increase in their wages, and Deputies are expecting a wage rise of €5,000 over the next two years. Sinn Féin opposes this.