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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] The renaming of a Department to include the word "Rural" in its title means nothing in the absence of a coherent strategy. Funding which amounts to no more than €500,000 per county is no statement of intent. There also remains no sign of any credible transport or infrastructure strategy, which are matters within the remit of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross. The core issue with this Government is its drift. It appears mainly concerned with internal manoeuvrings within Fine Gael, with, seemingly, no interest in trying to set a strategic direction for our economy or our public services. During the past week or so, we have picked up on the fact that there is clearly something going on internally within Government which is making it difficult for people looking in to decode policy positions and so on. The only thing stopping Ministers is their own commitment. They do not need a majority in this House to tell us what they want to do in terms of the future of the areas they oversee.

The regressive damage of Fine Gael has been stopped by this budget but many opportunities are being missed and threats remain unaddressed. This budget is a partial departure from the damage of the last five years. It must be the last we see of budgets that are devoid of urgency or strategic ambition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I understand Deputy Adams is sharing time with Deputy Mary Lou McDonald.

Deputy Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams Yes. This is Fine Gael's sixth budget. Prior to this, Fianna Fáil brought in at least 15 budgets. However, this is Fianna Fáil's first budget with Fine Gael, although one would not think that having heard the speech of Deputy Martin today. The question for Deputy Martin is why does he support a budget of which he is so critical. This was an opportunity to bring about fairness and equality for all those citizens whose standards of living fell dramatically in the crash of 2008 as a result of the Fianna Fáil leadership's bad policy. We all know that the electorate removed Fianna Fáil from office. Fine Gael and the Labour Party then came into office with the high rhetoric of political reform, fairness and commitments not to do what the Fianna Fáil leadership had done and then they went on to do exactly that. Fine Gael and the Labour Party sliced public services, cut wages and drove hundreds of thousands of our young people to foreign shores in search of work. Sa bhliain seo, 2016, 100 bliain ó Éirí Amach na Cásca agus Forógra Phoblacht na hÉireann, bhí deis againn tús a chur le fís nua a thógáil d'Éireann - "Éire níos fearr" but, of course, 1916 was a bit of an embarrassment for the establishment parties. There is no real commitment to the Proclamation.

  This budget did not mark the end of an old era and the start of a new era of prudent planning for long-term economic growth, of building public services that are fit for purpose, of tackling the spiralling cost of living and building a fairer more equal Ireland. These issues were not even a consideration for those who drafted this year's budget. Yesterday's announcements will not end the crises in health and housing. They will not deliver tax fairness. They do not end water charges. On the contrary, the budgetary changes made by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, aided and abetted by some Independents, are the same old doublespeak and political manoeuvring of the past. There is no new politics here ar scor ar bith. Níl aon sos ann do theaghlaigh agus do shaoránaigh atá cráite ag an gcostas saoil atá ag ardú gan stad. Níl aon iarracht ann an tseirbhís phoiblí a shábháil ón ngéarchéim atá ag dul ar aghaidh le fada. Sinn Féin is not surprised by this.  Chuir Fine Gael agus Fianna Fáil, le lámh cúnta ó Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre, fiacha de €64 bhilliún ar mhuintir na hÉireann agus beidh ár ngarpháistí ag íoc as seo.

  This Government is wedded to an ideology that prefers cuts to capital acquisitions tax for some of the wealthiest citizens in this State rather than investment in the health service. Last month, the hospitals waiting list rose to new record levels. At the end of September last, there were almost 555,000 people on public waiting lists. That is the fifth increase in five months. At the same time, the number of people waiting a year or longer for an appointment or treatment is also rising. Yesterday, there were 438 citizens on hospital trolleys. Once again, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda was among those with the highest number of people on trolleys. Fine Gael is responsible for this but the decisions and actions of the Fianna Fáil leadership is sustaining and empowering Government health policies.

  At a time when homelessness is at an historic level and people are being priced out of the rental and first-time buyers market, budget 2017 will simply make matters worse. The first-time buyers scheme will drive up house prices. The increase in capital investment for social housing is a miserly €150 million, which will deliver fewer than 900 new houses. The €17 million given to the housing associations will deliver fewer than 100 additional social houses. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have again failed to produce a viable, properly-funded housing strategy to tackle homelessness and the shortage of social housing for the tens of thousands of citizens on the ever-increasing housing waiting lists.

  This is a budget straight out of the Fianna Fáil play book. It provides a little bit for everyone in the audience, with some spending here and tax cuts there and a subsidy for property speculators and developers. I remind the House of Deputy Martin's claim that the last election result represented an overwhelming rejection of the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government, its policies and its hyper-political behaviour. This is the same Teachta Martin who was 14 years in ministerial office and played a key role in the crash in the first instance. He fought the last election to get rid of Fine Gael and then he put Deputy Enda Kenny back into power, as did the Independent Alliance. This was not the only Fianna Fáil U-turn. In the past few months, Fianna Fáil has done a U-turn on bin charges, the national monument in Moore Street, banded-hours contracts, rent certainty and NAMA. It also did a U-turn on the issue of water charges. The introduction of water charges was first proposed by Fianna Fáil. In its last general election manifesto this party, the soldiers of destiny, pledged to scrap Irish Water and water charges. It then did a U-turn on that position as part of its deal to keep Fine Gael in government and opted for an expert, mar dhea, commission on water charges and one year suspension of those charges. When Sinn Féin provided Fianna Fáil with an opportunity to scrap water charges by way of a motion tabled to this Dáil, it did another U-turn. It voted with its Government partners against the Sinn Féin motion. It is little wonder that the messages coming from the Fianna Fáil Front Bench are so confused. They are obviously dizzy after all of their U-turns.

  Ní bheinn ag súil le rud ar bith eile ó pháirtí a théann siar ar a pholasaithe i gcónaí. Ní cúis leis an rud is fearr do na saoránaigh agus don Stát. This is about maintaining the status quo, the so-called centre. It is always about trying to sustain themselves by containing the righteous anger of increasing numbers of people at the play-acting of the conservative parties. There were other choices available, as there have been over the past decade or so. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil know this. I sometimes think that all of what happens in this House is reduced to theatre. Budget 2017 could have been about starting to build an Ireland for living in and not merely for getting by in. Sinn Féin's alternative budget is economically prudent and is grounded in the republican ideals of equality and fairness. Our proposals seek to reduce the high cost of living facing families and citizens. They provide for the type of investment in public services that is needed to build the homes, schools, health facilities, flood relief works and roads that are so badly needed in every region in the State. I know from my dealings with Louth County Council that it does not have the money to fix potholes, it does not have the money to provide flood protection and it does not have the money to clear drains. Sinn Féin's proposals would have assisted in properly developing an all-Ireland economy and building long-term economic growth. Thabharfadh sé isteach córas cánach a bheadh cothrom agus cóir. Our budget proposals are about realising a new vision for a better society. This budget has no vision whatsoever.

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