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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] Encouraging Participation in Sport and Culture

Investments in our cultural and sporting life are vital to supporting the vibrancy of our country. As part of the total package to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, budget 2018 will also see a total allocation of €111 million in current and capital spending for sport next year. I am pleased, on behalf of the Government, to signal our strong commitment to Creative Ireland, the five-year legacy programme for Ireland 2016 which places creativity at the centre of public policy. Additional funding to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht of €9 million in current funding and €4 million in capital will allow for key measures to be progressed in 2018.

  It will provide more funding next year for the Arts Council, the Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, the national cultural institutions and the Creative Children initiative, all of which have captured the public imagination. There will also be additional allocations for our built and natural heritage and for Waterways Ireland.

  This Government is committed to the implementation of the 20-year strategy for Irish. There will be an increase of €2.5 million in the allocation for the Irish language and the Gaeltacht in 2018, with additional funding for the language planning process, including Údarás na Gaeltachta and various training programmes and organisations in Irish. Our national language is a vital part of our country.

Supporting Agriculture and Rural Ireland

So, too, is our agriculture industry and the wider rural economy and society. I am pleased to announce an increase in funding of €64 million for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. This will bring the total investment in this sector to over €1.5 billion in 2018, which will support Ireland’s largest indigenous industry and strengthen the sector’s ability to meet the challenges of Brexit. The Minister will bring forward a comprehensive package of Brexit response measures for 2018 amounting to over €50 million. The Department will also provide supports for capital investment in the food industry to increase competitiveness and innovation, and additional supports for Bord Bia marketing and promotion activities. In addition to the Brexit loan scheme I announced earlier, I have provided a further €25 million to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to provide for the development of a further Brexit response loan scheme for the agrifood sector. This will be developed in 2018 in co-operation with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland and others.

  To facilitate the intergenerational shift in farm ownership and management, I am maintaining consanguinity stamp duty relief at 1% for inter-family farm transfers for a further three years. The exemption for young trained farmers from stamp duty on agricultural land transactions continues.

  I propose to provide for the leasing of agricultural land for solar panels to be classified as qualifying agricultural activity for the purposes of specific capital acquisitions tax and capital gains tax reliefs. This initiative, which is subject to the panels covering no more than 50% of the total farm holding, should support diversification, expand the generation of renewable energy and help tackle climate change.

  Providing opportunities for people and communities in all parts of the country to share in economic recovery is crucial and is a priority of this Government. To support this objective, the Taoiseach this year established a new Department of Rural and Community Development. I am increasing the budget for that Department by €19 million on existing programmes. This amounts to a 12% increase year on year to provide the conditions for sustainable rural development and provide local-level supports to support vibrant and sustainable communities.

Protecting Children

Next year, there will be a substantial increase in funding for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. This is to ensure that we adequately resource those who are charged with the protection of our children, while also helping parents with the cost of child care. To ensure that we have the ability to help our most vulnerable children and families, to speak for them when others cannot, the allocation to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, will be increased by over €40 million, bringing its total allocation to just under €754 million. This will support a number of crucial developments, including: the introduction of mandatory reporting under the Children First Act; addressing gaps in existing out-of-hours services; and providing for further investment and development of the family resource centre network. This Government continues its commitment to the development of affordable child care with a focus on children, parents and providers. An additional €20 million allocation in 2018 will support a range of child care measures including, from September 2018, further development of the extended free preschool programme, ensuring entitlement to a full two-year service.

  In addition to other measures to provide quality and sustainability in the early years sector, the capitation rate for providers of the early childhood care and education, ECCE, pre-school programme will increase by 7% from September 2018. The measures, introduced in September 2017, for a universal child care payment for those under three years of age and increased rates in targeted child care subvention schemes, will continue to be supported in 2018 in advance of the introduction of the single affordable child care scheme.

Addressing Climate Change

Climate change is the global challenge of our generation and it must be met - for the sake of our children and future generations. This is recognised in A Programme for a Partnership Government and also in the recently published national mitigation plan. We will continue to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency and I have allocated €36 million to facilitate the expansion of the energy efficiency programmes across the public commercial and residential sectors.

  I am also pleased to announce the allocation of €17 million to fund the roll-out of the renewable heat incentive and to incentivise the uptake of electric vehicles. In addition to the vehicle registration tax, VRT, relief to a maximum of €5,000 and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, grant of up to €5,000 already in place, to further incentivise the take up of electric vehicles I propose to introduce a 0% rate of benefit-in-kind, BIK, in 2018. This will be introduced for a period of one year to allow time for a comprehensive review of BIK on motor vehicles to inform decisions for the next budget. I will also be bringing forward proposals for discussion in the new year in respect of VRT on leased vehicles to meet the requirements of the recent European Court of Justice, ECJ, judgment.

  In line with the recommendations of a review of the accelerated capital allowances scheme for energy efficient equipment being published, I propose to extend the scheme for a further three years, to the end of 2020. In line with the national mitigation plan, I have also asked my officials and the ESRI to carry out a review of carbon tax with a view to bringing forward proposals in budget 2019 around the role of the tax in driving changes to behaviour-----

A Deputy: Is that it?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe -----in households and business.

Ireland at the Centre of the World

I share the Taoiseach’s view that Ireland is not a country at the edge of Europe, but at the centre of the world. That is why I am announcing increased allocations for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence. Included in the increased funding of €23 million for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is an allocation to grow our global footprint for overseas staff.

  Crucially, after many years, we will begin to increase our overseas development aid budget in recognition of our responsibility to help those in the global community in need. While the increase of over €13 million for 2018 is modest, it is a step in the right direction. With a more favourable budgetary position on the horizon in 2019 and beyond, we will make further progress.

Helping our Most Vulnerable Citizens

Our system of social welfare seeks to provide an effective social security net for the more vulnerable members of society. Those living with a disability, carers, the unemployed and older people on fixed incomes must continue to be supported in meeting the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. As the economy recovers, working families and lone parents must be encouraged to partake fully in the labour market and benefit from higher incomes from employment over time.


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