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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 Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry] That is a differential of 365:1, which is a huge social inequality. I put it to the Government that it is likely to be even greater next year, after this budget. At the same time that public transport, education, social protection and other social services cry out for real, serious investment, when corporate profits increased by €24 billion in the period 2014-15 and when such profits are estimated and expected to increase by 25% this year, the Government refuses to increase corporation tax or even to consider doing so. The Anti-Austerity Alliance stands for a doubling of the rate of corporation profits tax from the current 12.5% to 25%. We point out that were that measure taken, Ireland's rate would still be below the OECD average.

Deputy Bobby Aylward: Information on Bobby Aylward Zoom on Bobby Aylward There would be no companies left.

Deputy Mick Barry: Information on Mick Barry Zoom on Mick Barry It would still be the same as in the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark, where there is plenty of corporate investment, and it would be less than in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, the United States, Malta, Portugal and Sweden. I could go on. Deputy Aylward said that some companies would leave. Some would leave but they would overwhelmingly be the ones that provide the least benefits to the country in terms of jobs. We should not base the economy on attracting brass-plate operations that do not have manufacturing or significant workforces in this country and that are only here to avoid tax. The bells are tolling for the old tax haven model. We need a break with that and a break with the system that has given us that model. We need a new, socialist model based on public ownership, democratic participation and control, and planning for the needs of the majority in society, including proper funding of social services.

In concluding the debate yesterday, the Minister, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, said, and seemed to put a certain store on saying, that the centre can hold and stay firm. His reference to the centre seemed to refer not just to his Fine Gael Party, but also to the Fianna Fáil Party, whose tacit support he has for this budget. His comments were echoed significantly by the Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson, Deputy Michael McGrath. With regard to the centre holding, let me say to the Fine Gael Deputy across the floor - I was going to say "the Fine Gael Deputies" but there is only one in the Chamber - that Fine Gael did not look very much like the centre ground of Irish politics last week at its pre-budget breakfast in the Shelbourne Hotel, as its members cheered and clapped and laughed as the chief executive officer of Ryanair, Michael O'Leary, called for the wholesale privatisation of the health service, attacked trade unions at RTE and Dublin Bus and called for the sacking of 4,000 gardaí if they dared to strike next month. Fine Gael looked very much at that gathering like what I believe it to be, that is, not the centre ground but the right wing in Irish politics.

However, for the purpose of this debate, let us leave that to one side and use the designation the two parties choose for themselves, namely, the centre. I will tell them now why the centre cannot and will not hold in this Chamber or in this society. More and more people will say, not just next week or next month, but over the next couple of years, that if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil say they cannot afford more than a miserable 10 cent increase in the minimum wage, then we cannot afford to be ruled by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. More and more people will say that if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil say they cannot afford a decent increase - a real increase - for the pensioners and other people on social protection, then we cannot afford rule by what Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil call the centre. More and more people will start to say that if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil say they cannot afford a society based on equality, or even a society which is not based on massive inequality, then we cannot afford the capitalist system which the Deputies on the benches of both sides of this House defend.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil saw what happened last year and the year before when large numbers of ordinary people came to the conclusion that we need to get rid of water charges. We are going to do it. However, that is just a small glimpse of what the future holds. People will move on to bigger things and, at a certain point, a critical mass of people will say they cannot afford this current system and they cannot afford not to change society to a more just and a fairer society based on a different system. When that penny drops and when that starts to happen, the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael stranglehold on Irish politics will be broken, the centre will not hold and the way will be paved for a left Government to come to power in this country with socialist policies to change society.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We now move to Independents4Change, represented by Deputy Wallace, who might be sharing his time.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I might be, with this quare one.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I take it that is Deputy Clare Daly.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Yes, thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. That is right.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace This was the first budget of the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition, and there were very few surprises in it. It was much like one would have expected, given the neoliberal position of both groups. There was a serious lack of mention of inequality in the budget. I do not think it was equality-proofed and I am not aware of any Government analysis of what the effects of the budget will be on society and on the wider world.

The corporate tax rate and our internationally recognised status as a corporate tax haven remain unchanged. We will continue to allow real estate investment trusts, REITs, some of the most profitable corporations and vulture funds on the planet, to escape the rules of democratic society, and we are not even sure what this will cost. The Minister for Finance has stated that he does not know what his 2013 Finance Act has cost the State in gifted tax exemptions. As he stated last April, "REITs are publicly listed companies, meaning their Financial Statements are publicly available, but the specific figures required to calculate their rental profit (the proportion of profit that is exempt) is not necessarily available in these public documents". The budget has not sufficiently addressed the favourable treatment being afforded to REITs at the expense of the traditional landlord.


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