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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 Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly] We now have the irony of a society with more wealth than it has ever had, but it is in a smaller number of hands and there are greater levels of inequality than ever before. To me, this is utterly reprehensible. I honestly think we are demeaning people. We are degrading them in the manner we treat them and they interface with social services. It is not right. I was going to read a quote from the end of the film which sums up what we are not doing, but as I do not know whether I would be able to hold it together without crying, perhaps I will not. The bottom line is what the man proudly proclaims at the end, which is that he is not a client, a customer, a service user, a shirker, a scrounger or a beggar or an insurance number but somebody who has paid his dues and was proud to do so. He never asked or looked for charity. He states he is a man, not a dog, and demands his rights and respect. He is a citizen, nothing more and nothing less. We have lost the concept of citizenship and what it means. We are not creating a society but a gulf between myth and spin, on the one hand, and the real lives of people, on the other.

  I will not have time to go into all of the points, but there is no doubt about it - other Deputies have referred to it - many of the measures included in the budget have been designed to make those who already have a greater share of the wealth even wealthier. The special assignee relief programme will cost the guts of €5 million, money which I believe could have been better used on public services.

  Points have been made about the inheritance tax measure which will benefit approximately 2,000 people, at a cost of €20 million to the State. The Government is bragging about the €35 million being spent on child care initiatives, while €20 million is being written off to the benefit of approximately 2,000 people, which, to me, puts the matter very much in perspective.

  While the Government might state it is great that we will have 1,000 extra nursing posts as provided for in the budget, which is very good, it does not undo the damage caused by the fact that we are down 5,200 nursing posts since the recession and that there is a deficit of 17% in the number of midwifery staff needed to run maternity services which has resulted in a crisis in maternity services. Eight maternity hospitals are under investigation following the tragic deaths of either babies or women in a country which a few years ago was lauded as being the safest country in the world in which to give birth. Sadly, that is not the case any more and the cutbacks are not being undone.

  Deputy Mick Wallace has dealt much better than I could with the so-called and misnamed help-to-buy scheme, which is really the give a few bob to the developers scheme. It is an absolute joke and will do no good and will probably do a lot of harm.

  There has been a huge play in the media about pensions. In some ways, it shows Fianna Fáil's historic policy of vote buying from its clientele, the over-65s, in the mileage it has been making out of the issue. While it is welcome that pensioners will receive an extra €5, it is not enough. Not only is it not enough, it does not do anything to address the shameful inequalities in the pension system. It is completely unacceptable. A full contributory pension is being denied to thousands of Irish women and some men, some of whom worked 30 or 40 years, because they did not engage in paid work for periods of their working lives for a variety of reasons. It might have been because they were caring for children, because they had volunteered abroad or because they were suffering from depression. Whatever the reason, in many cases women, in particular, were forced out of the workforce by the marriage bar and now in their later years they are being punished again by the failure of the Government to redress this inequality. They are being punished with reduced pensions. Many of these women re-entered the workforce after their children had been reared but because their contributions were based on an entire working life, they will not receive the full benefits. Meanwhile, people who did not work all of their lives and only started to work at, for example, 54 years of age and made PRSI contributions for ten years will receive a full pension. Others who, in some instances, worked 30 years will not. This is ludicrously unfair and I do not see why the Government will not correct this unfairness. It is completely wrong. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Leo Varadkar, plans to introduce a new total contribution system to correct the unfairness, but the plan is to introduce it by 2020 when, sadly, some of the women and men who would benefit from it may not be around. This is particularly the case because the Minister has stated he will not backdate the scheme. Many of the people who find themselves in this situation will not benefit, which is completely wrong. I will briefly read from a letter from a constituent who wrote to the Minister about this issue to show how disappointed she is it that is not being addressed.

Your response gives no understanding of the circumstances which could have led to women having atypical PRSI contribution histories. These were often due to societal expectations on women such as rearing and caring for children both healthy or suffering from intellectual or physical impairments. As the parent of an intellectually impaired daughter I could teach you a few facts on that score. Not alone was there a dearth of childcare facilities but there were even less facilities for those with such impairments. Include into this mix those women who were required to care for elderly or ailing parents and a clear picture of the impossible position which women were placed in back in the late 1960s and early 1970s begins to appear. Now those same women who were relied so heavily on by the State to give their time post-marriage to caring duties are being penalised heavily and shamelessly by the same State. It defies all reason and demonstrates neither empathy nor understanding of the circumstances which led to the atypical contribution history of [these women].

I could not put it better myself. When we speak about looking after older people, equality and a new Ireland, let us start dealing with the matter for real and deal with the women who brought the country to where it is, who reared and looked after others and who are not in any way getting the benefit.

  I have many more points to make. I want to speak about the shameful waste of giving further taxpayers' money to Horse Racing Ireland, representatives of which will appear before the agriculture committee tomorrow, and the greyhound industry, a diminishing industry which has shamed us internationally for its appalling treatment of greyhounds. There are so many examples where we could have spent the money better.

  The budget is a missed opportunity. It is stunningly unambitious and incredibly dull in its content. It will not do anything to address the fundamental inequalities which the Government has served to increase rather than reduce.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am glad to have another opportunity to reply to some measures included in the budget and thank everyone for his or her co-operation. Last night someone said the budget was like a light shower of snow over a farm, that there was no great amount in anyone's pocket or any one field. This is the best description I can use because there was a little for everyone, for which we must be thankful, in fairness. I have been in the House for many years and this is the first budget I can remember in which we are able to give something. It is very little, but we have to cut our cake according to measure. We went wild in past years and are suffering as a result. The suffering endured in the past nine years of austerity has been frightening. The impact it has had on families and human beings has been appalling.

We cannot ever write out of history the number of people who are abroad and the number who are sick. We also have those who are under pressure and cannot pay their mortgage and are being terrorised by the banks. They were not mentioned in the Budget Statement. We have the terror industry around the banks and the repossession agents. We have the peace process in the North to deal with the impact of the Troubles and there are peace processes all over the world. We need someone to intervene to call off the hound dogs. Deputy Clare Daly spoke about blood sports. There is a blood sport and there is not a word about it. People are being terrorised and beaten up in their homes and on bóithríns and roads and being evicted. It is going on, but we have had a budget that does not even mention home repossessions or those in mortgage distress to any great extent.

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