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Budget Statement 2013 (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan] The Government might not call electricity a core need of a family but I do. I believe families have a right to it. If the Government cared about ordinary people it would have done something about household and mortgage debt. Instead it has left the whip hand with the people who destroyed the country, namely, the bankers. They decide whether to cut one's debt and will they do so? No, they will not.

What would I have done? That is why I am here. What would my alternative have been? I would have approached the multinational companies and told them the Government of the past two years had made a mess of running the country. I would have told them we are on the brink of collapsing as a society, something which is neither of benefit to them nor the ordinary people of Ireland. I would have informed them that Ireland was embarking on reform which would make the country more competitive and leaner than ever before. I would also have informed them that this process would take two years and to achieve it during this time a levy of 2.5% would be put on corporation tax. At the end of two years of real reform the levy would be lifted and their companies would do even better in an economy where price competition for services existed. This levy would raise €750 million.

I would also refuse to pay the promissory notes, which according to a research paper I had prepared by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service would save us €1.3 billion. Standardising tax breaks for pension contributions to 20% would increase the tax take by €700 million. Eliminating tax free status on lump sum pensions would save €170 million. I would also legalise cannabis, which according to research done by the Oireachtas Library and Research Service would save the country €500 million.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy's time is up and he is taking time from his colleague.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Two other measures which need to be achieved in the coming years are with regard to €3.7 billion wasted on drink abuse and €1.1 billion wasted on obesity. I suggest we have a Minister for Health and a Minister for sickness. We need a Minister for Health also because there is money to be saved. There are choices to be made today by a Government which made us promises but unfortunately it has taken a road which will crucify the country and in the future we will crucify it electorally.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Five minutes remain.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan I apologise to Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am delighted to be able to speak on the budget, but to stray from that topic I want to extend my congratulations to the Tánaiste on his recent visit to Clonmel to remember the founding of a decent party and I am delighted it went off peacefully. I must question the people who protested at the event and the cost of this to the State. We must be able to cherish our heritage and history. We have differences of opinion here but I meant to drop in to say hello but I did not have time. I am glad the Tánaiste had a fíor fáilte and that he enjoyed it. I hope his work was successful.

However, I completely differ with the Tánaiste on the budget. He made many promises prior to the election and made many attacks from this side of the House. I am disappointed because it is a horrible budget. It was divided into two little booklets and presented by two Ministers. It was well massaged and the nuances are hidden. I will refer to page 15 of the document produced by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Why can an assessment not be done on child benefit? Why can it not be means tested instead of cut across the board? I do not accept it would cost too much and that the officials could not do it. That is ridiculous in this day and age. There is no fairness.

The back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance is a necessary scheme and can be the difference between people going to school and staying at home. Our young people have a right to education. The changes to the farm assist scheme will be a big blow to rural Ireland. I am appalled by what is being done to jobseeker's benefit. With regard to the redundancy payments scheme, why would any self-employed person want to employ people? If for some reason he or she must let them go, the full redundancy scheme must be paid. The employer rebate element was previously 65% and this had been reduced to 15% but will be discontinued. This is a major blow to self-employed people. The supplementary welfare allowance for exceptional needs payments will be reduced. It is used sparingly, meaningfully and well in the main to support those with exceptional needs. The respite care grant is used by families who care for their loved ones and keep them out of hospitals, which provides significant savings to the State. It was €1,700 and has been cut to €1,375. This is sad.

The back-to-education allowance has been cut. We want people to return to education. Education now goes from the crèche to fourth level and I champion lifelong learning. The people in receipt of this allowance are struggling and want to better themselves and prepare for new jobs in new markets to support the economy. With regard to the household benefits package, this and previous Governments have had an inertia with regard to tackling the big guns, namely, the suppliers such as the ESB, Eircom and telecommunications suppliers. The savings should be made by doing this and not by hitting with cuts the elderly people who cherish a telephone call and use 1890 services such as the Good Morning South Tipperary listening service. They need ESB units. We are in for a shockingly cold winter and we must be down to earth and realise these are the weakest people in society.

Administrative savings have been promised due to the reduced costs for medical certificates and I hope we get them. I welcome increased funding for activation programmes and school meal provision. There are certainly cherries in the budget but overall we have bowed down to the troika. We must learn that austerity does not work and has not worked. I had never before been involved in a sit-in but yesterday I sat in at a banking institution for 12 or 13 hours - the Ceann Comhairle missed me from the House - on behalf of a family from County Wexford which was traumatised by the activities of agents of Friends First. We are bailing out the banks and paying the troika but we are stifling initiative and causing inertia and fear.

I was down town earlier and I saw the protest outside. Those of us who choose to go out and get up on platforms must be careful. The protest was ending as I was coming in but it had been hijacked like the protest last Wednesday. People must take responsibility for what they say. I saw gardaí being attacked by a group well known to them who were spoiling the protest. We must be careful when calling people out on the streets because it has dangerous consequences. The ordinary quiet people, namely, lower income earners, self-employed people, small business people, small farmers and middle-class people, do not protest because they do not have the time, energy or money to do so. We must be careful with regard to the type of people we bring out. Last Wednesday was unbelievable and I never saw the like of it. We were almost lynched because we dared to differ from people who are supposed to be pro-choice. Where is the country going? We must be careful. We must support the Garda Síochána. We must have the right to come to the House and make speeches and vote as we want. Let the electorate decide. We cannot be bullied.

  Sitting suspended at 6.50 p.m. and resumed at 7.20 p.m.

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