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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] They are the thousands of seriously ill and disabled children and adults who have had their discretionary medical cards withdrawn. Those paying are sick people forced to go without medicine because of the introduction of prescription charges. The price is being paid by those who use our public hospitals where one in eight patients on a waiting list is in the queue for over a year. Some people are waiting up to four years to see a consultant. That is some record. The price is being paid by the 130,000 families on the social housing waiting lists and the 100,000 households in mortgage arrears. Legal proceedings to repossess homes have increased tenfold. Rents are still increasing and the number of homeless children continues to rise.

While all these people have paid the price of Government policies, who did Fine Gael and the Labour Party protect? They certainly protected the property developers. NAMA has been allowed to pay developers salaries of €200,000 a year while medical cards were being stripped from children. The Government protected the bondholders. Billions of euro have been paid to international junior and senior bondholders who gambled on unstable banks while the Government broke its social contract with Irish citizens. The Government also protected the vulture capitalists. Billions of euro worth of Irish assets are being subjected to a fire sale while the citizen picks up the losses.

The Government protected the tiny wealthy elite in this State. Wealth tax and tax relief loopholes have been allowed to continue. It protected the banks. A total of €64 billion of public money was pumped into the banks and then bank CEOs were allowed to pay themselves salaries of €800,000 a year while threatening families with eviction. The Government abjectly refused to get a resolution to the problem of legacy debt. That is its legacy. It protected the golden circle. Just like Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party continued political appointments to State boards and failed to act on high salaries for politicians and those in banking and State bodies.

Meanwhile, the Government has ignored the demands of hundreds of thousands of citizens who have taken to the streets again and again to demand it scraps domestic water charges. It should have done so yesterday. The water charges issue has not gone away, you know. It has become a catalyst for popular discontent against the Government. The community mobilisations have been extraordinary and a real example of genuine, active citizenship. Those who have been politicised will not now meekly back down in the face of Government bribes, slander or intimidation. The major mobilisations we have seen are not just against water charges. They are against the blind, relentless pursuit of a failed austerity agenda.

The Taoiseach has characterised the forthcoming election as a choice between stability and chaos but there is no stability for low-paid workers or those on zero-hour contracts. There is no stability for those patients and front-line workers facing chaos in our hospital accident and emergency departments. There is no stability for those families facing the prospect of losing their home. This Government's idea of stability is very different to that held by most citizens. The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste's notion of stability is the maintenance of a deeply unequal and dysfunctional status quo. That is not the stability our people need or want. This Government has used its huge Dáil majority to attack the rights and welfare of struggling families and vulnerable citizens in complete contradiction of its 2011 election promises.

The Taoiseach should think of this phrase "fool me once-----

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny "Shame on you".

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald "Fool me twice, shame on me". The Government has fooled the people once. It will not fool them twice.

Deputy John Halligan: Information on John Halligan Zoom on John Halligan Yesterday's budget as per tradition was delivered in two halves, the first by the Minister for Finance and the second by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Since I have been in the Dáil and since the Government took office, it has been the tradition to introduce a range of measures that will cumulatively advance us even further towards an Irish society of two very distinct halves - the rich and the poor or the haves and the have-nots. There was the usual attempt to portray a fair and balanced fiscal outlook but there has been nothing fair about the austerity foisted upon the Irish people through what I would call a bad political decision and bad political decisions in recent years. Yesterday's poor attempt to buy back votes with scraps was a further insult to the intelligence of very many people. Does the Government honestly believe people's memories are that short and that they can be dazzled by a couple of euro a week when their children are still living in exile in forced emigration, when their friends are losing the roof over their heads and when their neighbours are lying in pain on a hospital trolley, waiting for a bed?

The big fanfare in the budget surrounded the USC "bonanza", as one newspaper called it and as the Government would like to portray it, and how it will give back squeezed middle-income earners around €10 a week. If one thinks of that, it is a princely sum of their own hard-earned money that will be quickly soaked up and taken away by water charges, household charges and, of course, all the other indirect taxes. It is a case of fingers crossed on the part of the Government that these people will be so overwhelmed with paying a percentage less that they will forget this tax was only intended to be a temporary measure in the first place.

Speaking of the squeezed middle, I am very disappointed at the Government's attempt to portray this budget as the antidote that hard-pressed working families have been waiting for. Granted, the additional 23 weeks of free preschool will benefit a significant number of families but what about those working parents whose children have already turned three years of age, many of whom have been speaking on the radio this morning? It is too late for these people to benefit from this measure. Ireland is now the most expensive country in the world for child care yet, astonishingly, there was no attempt in this budget to introduce measures aimed at universally affordable and accessible child care for middle-income earners who are currently forking out approximately €1,000 per month. There is a wholly inadequate €3 million allocation to support after-school services which I cannot see stretching very far. The school year only runs for 37 or so weeks of the year. What are working parents supposed to do outside term time? Young working parents have borne the brunt of the recession and they have been left hanging by this budget. It is not good enough. We have again turned our backs on even adequate child care services in this country.

It is interesting that the Minister for Finance said yesterday that the cost of renting accommodation was not a budgetary matter. This was an astounding statement to make. His reasoning behind not addressing rent controls or the price of rent was that he did not want to interfere and make matters worse than they already were. This is exactly what he said. One wonders just how much worse things will get before the Government faces up to the homelessness crisis. There are thousands of young adults over the age of 18 who are living with their parents and sleeping in sitting rooms and kitchens who consider themselves homeless, so there are far more homeless people than those we define as being homeless. It is widely documented that the substantial gap between rent supplement and the famous housing assistance payment, HAP, and the actual rents being sought is causing homelessness and will continue to do so. I do not understand why the Government has not taken up the results of a survey carried out earlier this year that showed that only 12% of rental properties were available within rent supplement or HAP limits.

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