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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 Danny Healy-Rae: Information on Danny Healy Rae Zoom on Danny Healy Rae] It is a disgrace. More positions have been announced for the rural social scheme today. I welcome that but at the same time, I cannot understand why each and every one of the small number of people in the rural social scheme in Cahirciveen have been called in to be assessed. Is that happening around the country? It would be very wrong to pick on one small place, which is deprived of employment. It was the only thing keeping the community going.

There is nothing in this budget for the self-employed. If they become unemployed they will not get social welfare or a medical card. It is sad to think that these people, who employed people for so long and perhaps lost their contracts, get nothing at all. They must suffer, wait and go to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for assistance.

A lovely group of women came to Leinster House last week to highlight the unfairness of the pensions they were receiving. Some of them are not getting pensions at all. I highlighted the issue of averaging contributions here last week. It is very unfair that nothing has been done to address this problem.

The inheritance tax threshold has not been increased enough for farmers and small businesses. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said that the bereavement grant should be restored. So many people have been hurt by its abolition. Many of our Garda stations were closed and it is sad that there is no mention of them being reopened.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae They were shattered.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I too would like to speak on the budget, so I am disappointed that there is no senior Minister here. I mean no disrespect to the Minister of State, who is a good worker. I will ask him a direct question. It relates to the fair deal scheme. Ms Maura Canning of the Irish Farmers Association, IFA, and others were promised by the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, that there would be equality and parity of esteem for farming families and the self-employed. I cannot see the money for that measure in the budget; perhaps the Minister of State can point it out. I want a direct answer on that issue. Are these people being duped and fobbed off? They cannot wait and they should not wait because they are entitled to the same as anybody else. They want nothing else. Their assets are being stripped away and some of them are in very serious situations.

It was a do-nothing budget that contained little. It was like the shower of snow which would fall on the Galtee Mountains and which would be gone after five minutes. There is a little skift for everyone but very little that is meaningful for anyone. As for the man who gets up in the morning to work, the Taoiseach is not here but I hope he is watching. My goodness, that man will not stay in bed long tomorrow for the euro extra he will get out of today's budget. Anyone earning less than €20,000 will get a euro extra. That is the thanks he gets for getting up early in the morning from the Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, and his team. That is some thanks. It has to be made profitable and meaningful to get up and go to work. One has to get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. That is how it has to be.

There are many areas to discuss. We mentioned the 1.8 million people who are now working. They are paying way more tax - I believe it is 60% more tax - than 2.5 million people were paying some time ago. The whole thing has shifted and must be put back so as to be fairly balanced. The ordinary working man should not be crucified. Neither should the self-employed people in small and medium enterprises who want to get up and provide employment. They get nothing at all if they fall sick, as Deputy Danny Healy-Rae has said. As I have said, there are 100,000 fewer workers but they are paying far more income tax. There are issues around home care, property tax and the pension situation of the women who came up here last week. The widows got nothing. I interrupted the Minister to say the widows did not get a shilling; not a cent. I welcome the increase in child care provision but what about the parents who stay at home to mind their children in a traditional family? They get absolutely nothing. They are discriminated against all the time.

As I said, nothing was really done in this budget to tackle the housing crisis. Nothing meaningful was done. Another quango was set up - another agency to go between NAMA, which should never have been set up, and the county councils. I do not even know the fancy acronym for it. I do not want to. It will take two years to set up, it will be packed with retired officials and former county managers and it will do absolutely nothing to help the housing crisis. The people should be allowed to build their houses. If they are seeking planning permission in the country, they should be allowed to build. I travelled in on the bus from Finglas this morning with an old dear whose husband has been dead for 67 years. She has been living in her house for 60 years. She came down here from Monaghan. She watched the houses being built daily. They had no cranes or equipment but they could build them. She saw the water, the gas and the electricity going in to these houses. She is still proud of that house. With all our equipment we cannot build today. Something is badly wrong with the system if we cannot build the houses. We will not let the people who want houses and have the wherewithal to build them to do so and we will not provide the money for the councils to build them. The councils have also lost their way. We need to build houses to deal with the crisis. I welcome the extra money allocated to house the homeless, but it is wasted money. Build the houses. Let them have pride in their own apartments and allow bedsits to reopen.

We have seen the Coffey report and the importance of corporation tax. I say to any of the politicians on the left who wish to scrap the corporation tax rate that we must keep it. We get a fortune from it. What we get from corporation tax has increased by billions, without mentioning the tax paid by the 200,000 people who work in foreign direct investment companies, many of them in my own area in Clonmel, Dungarvan and Ballymacabry. They pay taxes, as do those in the associated service industries. It is nice to have rhetoric about getting rid of the corporation tax rate but it is under attack from Europe and we must ensure that it is not diminished or undermined by our so-called European friends. We saw how friendly they were to us when they sent the troika in here and cleaned us out. It was called a bailout but it was a dirty rotten clean-out. It left us with nothing. Our grandchildren will be paying for it in the future, as will their children.

I welcome the maintenance of the tourism VAT rate. I also welcome the small breakthrough for charities. We lobbied hard for it in the budget. Deputy Harty lobbied the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, hard for it in recent times. The charities go out to ordinary people, our families and friends, and raise funds every day of the week for different hospices, for defibrillators and for equipment for ambulances. They are then charged VAT by a hungry, greedy system. A start has been made there but it is only a small one because the exemption only goes up to a certain limit. There should not be any VAT charged on that money. People have paid their tax on it and have given it voluntarily to people who are doing bucket collections, walks and cycles or are jumping out of aircraft or doing whatever else they do to raise money for charity. Were it not for the charities, the health system would crumble. It is small start but I welcome it. Tús maith, leath na hoibre.

Nothing has really been done on Brexit. There will be a €300 million loan fund for small businesses that may be affected. It is a little but it will be hard to access those loans under the rules and the guidelines. We are not really looking at it as we should. As I have also said, the cost of building houses must be looked at it. I have said that in many debates here. The VAT, the charges, the levies from the county councils, the auctioneers' fees and the special fees to have an architect supervise the building make up 53% of the build cost. The Minister should do away with them, or half of them, in one fell swoop. He has the power to do it but he will not. I am coming to the conclusion that he does not want to build the houses and that he wants people to be in penury and misery.

While they are not enough, I also welcome the cuts to prescription fees. I welcome the situation with regard to the telephone allowance. It is also not enough but it is a start to the restoration of the free telephone allowance. Many people depend on the landline. They do not have Skype. For all the Minister cares they could be left forgotten to die in a field because he will not support and look after them.

More money was poured into the HSE today. It is going into a big black hole - a morass. We see fewer and fewer outcomes. It is happening every year. We have gone from €12 billion a few years ago to more than €15 billion, yet we are seeing fewer outcomes and worse outcomes. People are sicker. Some 500 people were waiting on trolleys yesterday, even before the winter sets in. It is only early autumn and there have been people on trollies all summer. That is not being dealt with. The HSE is dysfunctional and the Government must tackle it and not waste money. It must allow people to have some modicum of services for their taxes. Not everyone can afford private health care.

As I said, there are many more areas to discuss. I have looked for a land tax to be introduced in several budgets. There is a situation in my own county of Tipperary where a horsing conglomerate is buying every square metre, every perch of land. It cannot allow anyone else to buy anything. It will not be taxed. It has tax subsidies on its stud fees. I salute the equine industry, what it has done for this country and the enjoyment and employment it brings, but it is time that we got equity and that those in the industry paid their stud fees. It is time for a land tax to stop them buying all the land.

The Deputy from Roscommon, Deputy Fitzmaurice, has tabled an amendment tonight on the increase on the 2% tax for people buying small amounts of land in their neighbourhood. These people cannot afford that. The Minister is penalising the small people yet the fat rich people get away with it. It is the same with the multi-millionaires. At the risk of being accused of joining those on the left or sounding like them, we must look at the tax system and have parity. We cannot have the ordinary working man and woman and small business people crippled with taxes and levies. We need to challenge what it is going on there and the Government has not looked at it. I also sought a capping tax to do something about the proliferation of drink, which is so available to young people all over the place.


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