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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 Gerry Adams: Information on Gerry Adams Zoom on Gerry Adams] Our proposals are about achieving economic equality and sustainable prosperity. This is particularly important when one considers the economic environment on the island. Economic conditions for some are better than they were a few years ago. There is no doubt that things have improved for some citizens and in some parts of the State. While Sinn Féin welcomes this, such benefits are not being felt by many low and middle income families in rural and urban areas, by citizens living in rural Ireland and those living in the west. For hundreds of thousands of citizens, life is dominated by worries about money, keeping a roof over their heads, getting a roof over their heads, paying hospital bills or meeting back to school costs. The high cost of living, combined with inadequate, underfunded public services, means that many families are working long hours, if they are lucky enough to have work, but they still cannot make ends meet. That is what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil mean when they talk about recovery. Sinn Féin, on the other hand, wants to build a society and a recovery in which no community or citizen will be left behind.

We also want to see a recovery which is rooted in the reunification of the island. There has been a great deal of talk in recent days and weeks about partition and the Border, but what are the Government and the Establishment parties doing about it? Economic challenges lie ahead as a result of the outcome of the Brexit referendum. We can already see negative consequences for the economy of the island, North and South. Given what the Conservative Party stated last week, it seems set for a hard Brexit. That means that Britain will leave the Single Market and Customs Union. There will be no free movement of workers and barriers to immigrants will be raised and reinforced. The British Government is claiming that the Taoiseach's Government will act as a gatekeeper to protect Britain's borders from non-EU people. That is what is being spun from London. The Tories are already committed to scrapping the Human Rights Act and leaving the European Court of Human Rights. That will be a direct attack on the Good Friday and subsequent Agreements. By insisting on Britain pursuing a hard Brexit, the British Prime Minister has set it on a collision course with the European Union in which Ireland, North and South, will be regarded as collateral damage.

The Government continues to sleepwalk and dither instead of being leaderly and decisive. There is a responsibility on it to defend the "Remain" vote in the North. There are no ifs and buts about this. The establishment of the all-island civic dialogue, on which the Taoiseach also dithered, is only one step in the production of an holistic, all-island strategy to meet the challenge of Brexit. I sat and listened to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil speculate about what was happening in London. I read the report on the Labour Party leader travelling to London to call for another referendum. That is nonsense. Our focus should be on what we are doing, not what the Brits are going to do. What are we going to do? The national interest has to be protected and promoted. The overriding priority of the civic dialogue must be to advocate on behalf of the "Remain" vote in the North. At the weekend some very successful Border protest marches were held from Derry to north Louth. They are a measure of the concerns of citizens on both sides of the Border.

Agriculture, the food processing industry and small and medium businesses are already facing massive challenges as a result of the crisis in the sterling exchange rate. An integrated economy on the island of Ireland is not just a political aspiration, it is now also an economic imperative. We heard a great deal about Brexit proofing in the run-up to the budget announcement, but there is very little in the actual budget package to match such lofty rhetoric. On the other hand, Sinn Féin provided for real all-island co-operation and integration within public services and investment in infrastructure in its budget alternative. We proposed investment in InterTradeIreland, Foras na Gaeilge, Tourism Ireland and Waterways Ireland. We also proposed additional investment in the A5 and the Narrow Water bridge which Sinn Féin Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive have agreed to match. We have also pressed for the establishment of a committee under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council tasked with harmonising and maximising all-island economic co-operation. We have called for the establishment of a Border economic development zone to harmonise trade and maximise returns for Border businesses. These would be meaningful actions of benefit to the economy. As such, I commend them to the Taoiseach. They are not ours. The Government should take them, work with them and make them happen.

Sinn Féin is the only all-island republican party represented in the Dáil. We believe ending partition and reuniting the country and its peoples is in all our interests. Brexit has, sadly, exposed the disastrous consequences of partition for the island and especially the Border region, but we do not need to wait until partition is ended and Ireland united to relieve families of the burden imposed by the cost of living. We do not need to wait until then to provide decent public services and housing. The budget could have ensured no one would be left behind, but it did not. It is not about what is best for the people, the economy or public services, rather it is a budget about Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The evolution of these parties now means that if you vote for one, you get the other one for free.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath That is a good sound bite.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald In his remarks today the Taoiseach commended in a self-flattering and self-serving manner his Government as a different type of Government which combines its members' different talents to build a strong economy and a fair society. Not alone is there very little talent in evidence in the budget, it lacks a defined roadmap to build strong economic fundamentals or, certainly, to deliver a fair society. It seems that, with his partners in Fianna Fáil, the Taoiseach wants to recolonise the concept of fairness. According to his colleague, Deputy Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach has had a conversion on the road to Damascus. Anybody who takes an interest in the affairs of the State and knows anything about Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil can confirm, as the record reflects, that for them "fair" is a four-letter word. Many terms and concepts might be associated with these parties respectively, but fairness is not among them.

Deputy Micheál Martin is hurt and offended that I made the obvious observation that we had had a very political budget. It is a crass box-ticking exercise that is fundamentally about protecting the political hides of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. That seems to upset him. Therefore, he invites all and sundry to regard Sinn Féin, the party of opposition, through the prism of our proposals. That, of course, is the correct thing to do. I suggest, however, that the rhetoric of Fianna Fáil which we heard today ought to be filtered through the fact that it has kept Fine Gael in government and Deputy Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. That is a matter of fact. It should also be filtered through the fact that whatever the bluster, Fianna Fáil is intent on supporting the budget. That is the position.

Deputy Micheál Martin and anyone else is very welcome to scrutinise Sinn Féin's alternative budget. I have it here. Unlike Fianna Fáil's, the document has been fully costed. We thought that was an important exercise in bringing forward our proposals.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Get to the point.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I thank the Deputy.

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