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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] The mind boggles. I suppose the Taoiseach had his outing in the media so now he will go about his actual intentions.

Faoin Rialtas seo, chuaigh géarchéim na tithíochta in olcas go mór. Fine Gael and Labour have abandoned the provision of social housing to the private sector and we can see the disastrous results. We have 130,000 families in need of housing and on social housing lists. Nearly 1,500 children are in emergency accommodation. No matter how often that is said, it is still so shocking.

Rents have gone up by 35% since 2011, outstripping Celtic tiger levels. We need a level of investment to which this Government is simply unwilling to commit, so the crisis will continue. That is the prognosis. From any reading of its announcements yesterday one could arrive at no other conclusion.

The additional €69 million announced by the Government yesterday is less than a quarter of what it cut from the housing budget in 2012. Was the Taoiseach aware of that? Again in 2013 the Government halved funding to local authority housing, and cut another 10% in 2014. We wonder why we have an emergency now. With homeless citizens dying on the streets very close to the Dáil, I really wonder what it will take before this Government acknowledges the scale of this catastrophe. Sinn Féin has provided for an extra €300 million investment for 2016 in social housing delivering almost 1,700 units in addition to existing Government plans.

The Government will not do that because it chooses not to. It also failed to announce rent certainty as part of the budget. Meanwhile many landlords have seen an opportunity in the current crisis and have hiked up rents. As a direct result of their actions and, more importantly, the Government's inaction, children and their families are now homeless.

The Government did nothing about the bank levy, despite all its previous tough talking and shape throwing. There will be no legislation to let the Central Bank set a cap on rip-off mortgage rates. The 300,000 mortgage holders with standard variable rate mortgages have been abandoned by this Government. We see again that this is a Government of the banks and for the banks.

The Government tells us that NAMA will build houses. Many in Sinn Féin have been calling on NAMA to activate and honour its social obligations for many years. Those pleas fell on deaf ears. Let it be said that, if delivered, only a tiny proportion of those houses will come back in the form of social or affordable housing. Again, the Government is relying on private developers making a buck in respect of housing provision.

I would like to know what the Government proposes to do around the funding of Tusla in general, and specifically in respect of the fact that 80% of women fleeing domestic violence were turned away from Dublin refuges in the first three months of this year. Many of those women have children and they were turned away. I want to know where the money is for that, and where the Taoiseach's commitment is. There was no mention of it yesterday although many of these refuge facilities are in imminent danger of closure. It was not worthy of mention in the budget. We know that without these services many women and children will be forced into homelessness or, heaven forbid, worse.

The Government's announcement on child care falls very short of the Scandinavian model benchmark so beloved by the Tánaiste. It is proposed to provide an additional 50 weeks in respect of any individual child between the ages of three and five and a half. Although any advance in child care is welcome, let us be clear that the system as it exists is sessional and therefore very part-time. The capitation rates afforded for the scheme are absolutely inadequate and are causing huge difficulties in terms of staffing. The experience of children with special needs and disabilities has been in many cases one of exclusion from this scheme. The Government has now committed to remedying that position and I hope that it will be true to that commitment when we see the details.

Sinn Féin's budget proposals also provided for an additional six weeks maternity benefit that can be taken by either parent in addition to paternity leave. I am very disappointed that the Government did not do something in that regard.

The only positive move regarding education in the budget is the decrease to the pupil teacher ratio. There was no increase in school capitation grants, which leaves schools in very great difficulties. I heard no mention of increasing funds for DEIS schools or, importantly, of reducing the student contribution fee. The cut of 15% to resource hours across the system has been devastating. The Government's partial announcement does not come close to reversing that cut.

Rural Ireland has been under sustained attack over the past number of years. Fine Gael and Labour have presided over the closure of Garda stations, schools and post offices, the shutting down of hospitals and of other local services. The budget does nothing to reverse this attack on rural Ireland. Our pre-budget submission proposed that farm assist be restored to pre-2013 levels in terms of assessment of means and income deductions in respect of children. We also proposed additional places in the rural social scheme by 20%. None of these measures was introduced by the Government. While some of the measures announced, such as capital gains tax and stamp duty exemptions for young farmers being extended beyond next year, are to be welcomed there is nothing from this Government for struggling small farmers. The USC reduction of 0.5% will apply to most small farmers who earn less than the lower limit, while the bigger farmers will benefit to the tune of 2.5% on incomes up to €70,044.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny What about the genomics and GLAS schemes?

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald Not a single new garda was trained between 2010 and 2013. Just 200 new recruits were taken in last year and the numbers for the last two years will not even cover the retirements. While on the face of it, the announcement of 600 gardaí in 2016 sounds like a lot, as the Minister herself has acknowledged, retirements are roughly 400 each year. That leaves a net gain of 200, far short of the announcement.

Since entering Government, Fine Gael and Labour have cut the strength of An Garda Síochána by nearly 10%. That is a truly shocking statistic, especially given the sustained attacks in rural Ireland by organised criminal gangs. Sinn Féin has proposed investment in community policing by training an additional 1,000 gardaí to ensure the strength of the force gets back to where it was before this Government assumed office.

The disastrous economic policies initiated by Fianna Fáil and continued by Fine Gael and Labour have seen over €30 billion taken out of the economy in taxes and cuts. Bréag iomlán atá ann nuair a deir an Rialtas go bhfuil muid ar fad ag obair as lámh a chéile sa ghéarchéim seo. Masla atá ann fosta do na saoránaigh sin atá ag fulaingt go géar.

Many of our citizens have suffered greatly while those who were protected are again first in line to benefit under this Government. Those being forced to pay the price for the Government's policies are families on low and middle incomes. Those paying the price are families put to the pin of their collar by the family home tax and water charges. They are the 500,000 people who have emigrated since 2008. Young people are continuing to leave in their droves because of poor opportunities, low wages and a lack of access to housing and child care.

Those paying for the Government's austerity policies include lone parents.

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