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 Header Item Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Financial Resolutions 2017
 Header Item Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan] In the period January to August this year, in excess of 600,000 additional trips were taken overseas by Irish residents by comparison with the same period last year. That shows an increase of some significance. The big increase in travel contributed to a big increase in the demand for the passport services. Added to this, the outcome of the UK referendum on EU membership led to a strong growth in passport applications from Northern Ireland and Great Britain. The overall increase in demand from Northern Ireland in the first nine months of this year compared to last year is 25%, with a notable increase from July onwards.

In respect of applications from Great Britain, passport applications for the period January to September this year are up 40% by comparison with the previous year, having surged from July onwards and with demand in August 2016 almost 120% higher than in the same month last year.

Meanwhile, we have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the Irish passport by ensuring that it cannot be exploited by criminals who target travel documents as a means of facilitating illegal activity, including money laundering.

We have been using technology to improve our offering to Irish citizens. This time last year, I launched the passport card, a credit-card-sized travel document that can be used to travel to 31 countries within Europe. I am pleased that an additional €4 million has been allocated to the passport reform project in this budget. In the context of the budget, a priority for my Department will be protecting Ireland's strategic interest in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, with a particular focus on the peace process. Other priorities include advancing Ireland's trade interests and continuing to modernise our passport service to ensure we can provide an effective and efficient service.

Topical Issue Matters

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 29A and the name of the Member in each case: (1) Deputies Pearse Doherty and Pat The Cope Gallagher - ní mór don Aire Ealaíon, Oidhreachta, Gnóthaí Réigiúnacha, Tuaithe agus Gaeltachta freastal ar riachtanais na n-eagraíochtaí a reachtálann scéim na gcúntoirí teanga thar ceann na Roinne i bhfianaise na gciorraithe atá déanta le dornán beag blianta anuas; (2) Deputy John Brady - the position of a contract to develop a coastguard station in Greystones, County Wicklow; (3) Deputy Michael D'Arcy - the completion of the GLAS computer application in County Wexford to facilitate 2015 GLAS payments; (4) Deputy Shane Cassells - the management and proposed changes at Our Lady's Hospital, Navan, including the accident and emergency unit; (5) Deputy Jonathan O'Brien - to discuss the forthcoming planned Garda strike; (6) Deputies Peter Burke and Carol Nolan - the flood defence provision for rural south Westmeath in the CFRAM report, and the plans in place along the River Shannon to prevent flooding this winter; (7) Deputy Alan Farrell - the need to support community sports initiatives, such as Lusk 2020; (8) Deputy Imelda Munster - the cuts in primary care staff and service provision and the loss of clerical and administrative posts in Louth and Meath; (9) Deputy Eugene Murphy - the need for a safety review of the N5 from Termonbarry to Ballaghaderreen following a fatal road traffic collision; (10) Deputy John Brassil - engagement concerns on plans to accommodate residents following the report entitled Time to Move on from Congregated Settings: A Strategy for Community Inclusion; (11) Deputy John Curran - the provision of primary care centres in Clondalkin and Lucan; (12) Deputy Michael Harty - concern over the future of County Clare's rapid response ambulance service; (13) Deputy Mick Wallace - the proposed destruction of the refugee camp in Calais and the Irish Government's refugee resettlement programme; (14) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - supports needed for St. Joseph's National School, Marino, Dublin 3, on its application for DEIS 1 status; (15) Deputy James Lawless - the reason volumes of waste from the greater Dublin area are currently being deposited in Drehid landfill site, north-west Kildare, and related issues; (16) Deputy Aindrias Moynihan - the inadequate social welfare service for Macroom, County Cork; (17) Deputy Thomas Pringle - ratification of CETA prior to any decision on the agreement at the EU Council; (18) Deputy Mattie McGrath - the Health Service Executive's review of the advanced paramedic vehicles and ambulance services in north Tipperary; (19) Deputy Pat Buckley - allegations of historical abuse at Clonmel mental hospital; (20) Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin - concerns in the Irish mushroom industry as a consequence of Brexit; (21) Deputy Clare Daly - the Minister's views on the non-statutory inquiry into the Garda protected disclosures; (22) Deputy Anne Rabbitte - the closure of the waiting list for free eye tests for children; (23) Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe - allegations of inappropriate behaviour in University College Cork; (24) Deputy Lisa Chambers - his views on the report on the well-being of members of the Permanent Defence Force; (25) Deputy Barry Cowen - the withdrawal of ambulance services from Edenderry and their relocation to Tullamore; (26) Deputy Catherine Connolly - the withdrawal of a bus service in Galway city due to lack of funding from the National Transport Authority; and (27) Deputy Paul Murphy - the continuation of the reduced unemployment allowance for young people.

The matters raised by Deputies Pearse Doherty and Pat The Cope Gallagher, Mick Wallace, Michael Harty and John Curran have been selected for discussion.

Financial Resolutions 2017

Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

  Debate resumed on the following motion:

THAT it is expedient to amend the law relating to inland revenue (including value-added tax and excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.

- (Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade).

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan I am sharing my time with Deputies Stanley and Ó Caoláin.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan Yesterday my colleague Deputy Pearse Doherty, Sinn Féin's spokesperson for finance, described the budget as profoundly lacking in any vision. I totally agree with him. It lacks any vision or any attempt to sketch out the most basic contours of what a fair Ireland could look like and what we might achieve. The Government, which remains in power only as long as Fianna Fáil deems it politically useful to further its own lust for power, squandered a real opportunity to produce an imaginative and progressive budget. Such a budget would have begun to grapple seriously with the enormous deficit we have in our shambolic public services. Instead, what we have is a budget that fails to tackle some of the most basic yet fundamental inequalities in our society.

Any attempt to put in place the building blocks of a universal health service free at the point of access and based on need is obviously now not even on the back burner. It is totally off the agenda. There was no attempt to deal with the issue of educational disadvantage, class sizes, third level funding or the restoration of the Traveller education grant. With regard to capital spending on infrastructure, the budget has failed miserably. Bizarrely, the big-ticket item for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the absence of the announcement of a single new project is an allocation of €25 million in additional funds for the regional and local roads programme. As noted by my colleague Deputy Imelda Munster, our spokesperson on transport, "€25 million is a pathetic allocation for road improvements on secondary and regional roads." By the Minister's and his Department's own admission, we need €3 billion to bring regional and local roads up to a reasonable standard. Therefore, we need €580 million per annum to keep the network in proper condition. The Minister's allocation of €275 million per year will actually ensure that our roads continue to deteriorate after almost a whole decade of neglect. This is another example of the Government's disinterest in the maintenance and provision of infrastructure outside the greater Dublin area.

The bottom line is that when we start to talk about investment in key public services, investment in infrastructure, capital spending, public transport, housing, education, training etc., Fine Gael and those propping it up do not seem to get it or care. All of the services I have listed above are considered necessary and, indeed, normal in European countries except, it seems, Ireland. It seems the political classes who run this State, including Fianna Fáil, could not care less about children sleeping in emergency accommodation, working families living in homeless shelters or the hundreds of thousands of workers who are left to eke out a meagre living while working long hours in poor, precarious working conditions. This is the very same political class that did, of course, look after itself. The Taoiseach and Ministers are in line for a huge increase in their wages, and Deputies are expecting a wage rise of €5,000 over the next two years. Sinn Féin opposes this.

Deputy Thomas Byrne: Information on Thomas Byrne Zoom on Thomas Byrne Sinn Féin supported the legislation when it went through last December.

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan We will introduce legislation to change that if we get the opportunity. The pay hike came exactly the same week that the Government, including the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, announced it had accepted the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission that workers on the minimum wage should get a 10 cent increase. How fair is that? Deputies are expecting a raise of over €5,000 and we offer those on the minimum wage 10 cent. It is difficult to find words to describe this paltry and disgraceful recommendation other than to say that it is an insult to workers and a supreme example of the gross hypocrisy at the heart of our political establishment.

This hypocrisy and gross indifference continue when it comes to young people who happen to find themselves on jobseeker's allowance. If Fianna Fáil's phoney concerns for young jobseekers were genuine, it should have raised them while writing the budget for 2017 with Fine Gael. It is a bit rich for Fianna Fáil to be crying crocodile tears now over the tiny increase young jobseekers will receive when it itself had a central role in negotiating and drafting the budget. This is a Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael budget; one should make no mistake about that. Fianna Fáil agreed to the budget that was announced this week, including the increase for jobseekers. Perhaps Fianna Fáil has only now realised that this is an issue.

Sinn Féin remains consistent in its call for the full restoration of the jobseeker's payment for all recipients regardless of age. In our alternative budget, we included a €40 increase in the payment for the under-26s as part of the restoration. I did not see this in Fianna Fáil's half-hearted, uncosted so-called "alternative budget". Does that party believe it is acceptable to abandon young people, some of whom are our most vulnerable?

I have first-hand experience of the impact of poverty and the neglect of young people on communities and society. Forty thousand of the young people on the live register are under 26. Of them, 1,625 live in Limerick and are depending on the State for their income. Shame on Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and the Independents who support them for producing this pathetic budget.

On the allocation to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, budget 2017 saw a 10% increase in the Department's capital allocation to bring it to €555 million. This includes €52 million supposedly to support job creation and innovation and assist Irish companies to respond to Brexit. This is simply not enough. As pointed out by a number of speakers already, Brexit is happening now. Jobs are at risk as we speak. Most stakeholders will state the currency challenges and drop in sterling have already threatened 7,000 jobs in the food export sector.

The IDA has received an increase of 22%, bringing its allocation to €137 million, with a view to establishing and progressing advance factories and potentially building factories in Dundalk, Limerick and Galway. That is very welcome but it is merely the tip of the iceberg.

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