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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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  3 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary] In this budget we have secured an additional €80 million as well as a local improvement scheme, LIS, package. However, again the impact of these schemes is being undermined by inconsistent application throughout the country and the use of these funds to make up for lost funds for local government.

This is probably the first budget that has been eclipsed by sport. I am realistic enough to know that more people are talking about Ireland's great win last night than are talking about today's events. There is also excitement and anticipation about the Rugby World Cup. I congratulate all involved and wish the bid to host that event here in 2023 well. It will require a capital investment, if successful, and all parties should reaffirm their commitment to that investment on this budget day. Our grassroots sports capital and current investment should not be sacrificed for big events. The forthcoming sports capital grants, national planning framework and the capital plan should be sports-proofed.

The Government's record on capital is the same as its record on housing and health - a lot of reports and no substance. It has outlined a series of pathways in terms of public private partnerships and the use of the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund that can deliver capital. We welcome today's announcements on housing. We will judge the capital programme when it is released in December. It must ensure that it has beneficial investment for regional areas.

This is the second budget produced under confidence and supply agreement. There are as many commentators on politics and on this budget as there were on last night's game. To some of them politics seems to be a game. Some revel in creating drama where none exists. Indeed some members of the Government see this as their main job within government. Others throw out idle speculation without a thought as to how that might impact on actual people. Politics is not a game. Politics is about people. All of us who are honoured to serve in this Oireachtas are here to serve the people and our country, and we hope to improve their lives and make this country stronger and a better place to live. It may sound twee, but it is the truth.

Fianna Fáil believes in acting on that aim and not just talking about it. This budget is by no means perfect, but it is much stronger, much fairer and much more ambitious for our island than it would have been without our input.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty This time last year I spoke about a missed opportunity. I spoke about how the budget should be judged on its impact on families living in hotels and patients on hospital trolleys. Now, a year on, what has been the result? In October 2016 when the last budget was announced there were 2,470 homeless children in the State. Last month there were 3,048. That is what budget 2017 delivered. That is what the so-called centre of Irish politics delivers.

The Government, with Fianna Fáil’s support, cut in excess of €500 million in taxes in that budget. It has the audacity to come back in here this year and propose more of the same while our citizens are denied basic rights. In the real world, in modern Ireland in the year 2017, people are dying on our streets because of the housing supply crisis. Out there in today’s Ireland the equivalent of the population of roughly ten counties, nearly 700,000 people, are currently languishing on hospital waiting lists, many in chronic pain awaiting much-needed operations, while other patients are left on hospital trolleys in our accident and emergency departments and hospital wards, like the 514 people on hospital trolleys today. Despite this, Fine Gael, its Independent friends and Fianna Fáil have come in here today and told us now is the time to cut taxes and to return to the boom and bust politics of the past.

At the centre of this budget is the lie that we can fix the health and housing crises while at the same time cutting people's taxes. Those who support this budget know it is a lie - the same lie they tried to spin last year. It says something about how little the Government can achieve when its main claim about this budget is that it will balance the books. The Minister knows it is possible to balance the books while at the same time beginning the process of sorting out the crises in health and housing. He knows this because Sinn Féin showed him how it can be done. We demonstrated that in our alternative budget.

However, did the Minister ever ask what his version of balancing the books means for the child who hears their mother locked in the bathroom of their hotel room crying night after night because she believes that she has failed her daughter? What does it mean for the parents who have to watch their children suffer in pain because they cannot access treatment in our crumbling health service? How comforting is his version of balancing the books for the elderly man who was lying on a hospital trolley this morning? These are the realities of the Government's policies. While the Minister may not want to hear it, this is as a result of what the Government did last year and in previous years. The Minister is further normalising these policies here today with the help of Fianna Fáil.

Unfortunately, the only conclusion we can reach is that the Minister simply does not get it. He does not get what it is like to have to wait and wait to access hospital services while suffering in pain. He does not get what it is like to have to wait on a hospital trolley and suffer the loss of dignity that goes with that. He does not get what it means to be a front-line worker in these circumstances. He does not get what it is like to bring kids up in a hotel and have them walk through the hotel corridor in their school uniforms every morning while the other hotel guests look on in bemusement. If the Minister got this even a little bit, he would not come in here and prioritise tax cuts. Every cent that he puts into tax cuts is money he takes away from developing our health services and building homes for homeless people.

This is a budget that tolerates and normalises mass homelessness of children and older people. It normalises our crumbling health services. The people deserve better than that. Sinn Féin will not stand over these choices. It is a disgrace that this is the best Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael can cobble together. Where is the urgency? Has the Minister not noticed that people are dying on our streets? In the midst of the darkest days of the recession in 2012, there were fewer children in homelessness and in poverty than there are today, five years later. There were also fewer people on trolleys and hospital waiting lists in 2012. That is the Minister's legacy and that of the other Ministers who have stood and applauded, and cheered him on as he has delivered successive budgets.

The need to be seen to cut taxes means this budget amounts to too little spread too thinly for the services our people use every day of their lives. However, the Minister managed to find a few bob for pet projects and I am sure his ministerial colleagues are patting him on the back. Deep in the document he produced today, on page 132, we see that he found €5 million each year for the Government's new spin machine although previously, if we are to believe him, the Taoiseach told us it would be cost neutral. As we know, that €5 million is the equivalent of 50 resource teachers and 56 SNAs. However, the Minister believes that the Government's image is more important than putting that money into front-line investments.

The Government plans to increase capital expenditure on public transport by a measly €9.6 million. We have argued for €170 million on public roads and transport this year - 17 times more than the Government's figure. Incredibly, given the state of our roads and public transport, the Government plans to spend almost as much on opening Stepaside Garda station for the Minister, Deputy Ross, than is planned to be spent on the entire new public transport services within the same Minister's Department.

The Minister spent his entire energy on negotiating tax cuts, and the health, housing and other needs of the population must make do with whatever is left over. The result is that in 12 months we will be back here and we will have spent the previous 11 months arguing why the health service is just as bad as it was, or even worse. We will be asking why waiting lists have grown longer and why the housing crisis has not gone away.

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