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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly] Faraor géar, is oth liom a rá nach bhfuil an Rialtas seo in ann déileáil go fírinneach leis na dúshláin atá os ár gcomhair agus ní raibh an Rialtas roimhe sin in ann ach oiread. Is iad na dúshláin sin ná fadhbanna ó thaobh athrú aeráide, cúrsaí tithíochta, cúrsaí sláinte agus cúrsaí taistil.

I looked at this budget and I wondered how one should deal with it and with these figures in a sensible way. I tried to be positive about it. I listened, I read, I examined and I discussed it but it fails me. One could look on this as a positive budget as there are good measures in it, until one puts it into context. The small amount of money that goes into one pocket is taken out of the other pocket without any context. The context is climate change of course and it has already been mentioned. Yesterday a special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was published. There is no escaping from the evidence. It said that a "transformative change" from the Government was required and that if we fail to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions very rapidly, the consequences will be more damaging and will happen sooner than had previously been thought. The changes that will keep warming to a barely tolerable 1.5° Celsius will require "far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society." That was published yesterday. Can the Minister of State tell me where this budget begins to deal with that evidence? On the positive side, that report points out that pathways that are consistent with sustainable development show fewer mitigation and adaptation challenges and are associated with lower mitigation costs. In simpler English, if we abide by the sustainable goals that we have signed up to there will be fewer costs to us in terms of mitigation. It is not just me who is saying this - the Citizens' Assembly, the Climate Change Advisory Council and the Environmental Protection Agency have all called for urgent action. If we do that we will actually save money. Members have been laughed at in this Chamber for talking about fines of up to €500 million but I see those fines repeated in a number of these documents. That is what we are facing if we fail to deal with climate change. Climate change has to come from every single Department and I see no evidence of that.

On housing, we are once again absolutely backing up the market. The Government is part of the problem in backing up the private market. Housing assistance payments increased from €150 million to €300 million this year. It will go up to €421 million next year and that is only one of the measures that is actively bolstering the private market. When the Government refers to social housing, it is misusing language because its social housing includes HAP tenancies, the RAS scheme and the other schemes. I ask the Government to stop misusing language in this regard.

On health, 46 patients are on trolleys in Galway city today and 525 nationally. We have very good public minded consultants reminding us on a regular basis that every year we have breis is 300 duine ag fáil bháis. We have over 300 people dying prematurely every year directly as a result of the time they spend on trolleys. We know that between 7,000 and 9,000 die prematurely every year because of poverty. We know that 800,000 people currently live in poverty and the largest proportion of them are children. We know that of that group of people living in poverty, 13.3% consist of the working poor. They are the ones who "get up and go out" to use the Taoiseach's language. We know that the carers in our society save the country a fortune, some €10 billion in unpaid work. I could go on and point out figures for other areas, including domestic violence which we know costs the economy more than €2 billion at a conservative estimate. Mental health and our failure to deal with it also costs the economy millions of euro per year.

This is my third year speaking in this Chamber on the budget and each year I cannot understand how the Government does not recognise this. The UN has asked us to recognise it and to look at alternative measures in our budgets. The document prepared by the Parliamentary Budget Office, for which I am very grateful, made a very good start to talking about gender proofing and climate change proofing, neither of which have happened. At the very least, perhaps the Minister of State could tell us later why the Government has not complied with that, with gender proofing, climate proofing or poverty proofing. Then we would be in a position as Deputies to say whether this is a good or a bad budget and to praise the Government for the good aspects of it. The budget should have been based on such a context, outside of this little golden circle in here. When the Minister of State is finished with his papers it would be nice if he heard some of what we are saying on this side of the House because it is difficult to keep my train of thought as I watch all the papers being shuffled from one side to another. The Government has missed a golden opportunity in this budget. We have the money, the knowledge and the research and the Government has utterly failed to act on that knowledge and research for the betterment of society. It has focused in on a small percentage of the population which it hopes will guarantee it votes. I do not believe that because when we were elected we were given a clear message not to talk about reducing taxes but to deal with the fundamental problems facing society, which are climate change, housing, health, public transport and mental health problems to mention but a few.

The strategy for the years 2006 to 2016, A Vision for Change, set out the pathways to deal with our mental health problems in a positive way. Each Government has utterly failed to fund it and the most cynical action was when the independent monitoring group was abolished. It was set up for two different three-year periods and it told each Government that it was not fulfilling its obligations under A Vision for Change. The answer of those Governments was to ignore and abolish it and this Government has refused to reinstall it. Stopfaidh mé ag an bpointe seo.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle As I sat here for the last hour or so listening to my colleagues' analysis of the budget, I was asking myself what value we have in coming in here to criticise the budget. The more I listened to it, the more I was convinced that it is important because I think back to when I was younger, which is a long time ago now, and we would look at these budgets with Fine Gael on one side and Fianna Fáil on the other side, with Labour in the middle, and they would all talk rubbish and the budget would come in and it would benefit everybody and that would be it. However, what is happening here now is that the Government is hearing an alternative voice on the budget and what is possible and that is important. It is important that the work that everybody has done here in critiquing the Government is heard because what it is doing is appalling and desperate. The Government does not have a vision, apart from a right-wing vision that seeks to ensure that people are to blame for their situations and problems and the Government is not here to do anything to deal with those problems, rather it is here to make money for the people who it benefits. Unfortunately that is the truth of the matter.

Budget 2019 firmly establishes Fine Gael ideology for the next few years as it once again seeks to prioritise landlords over tenants, developers over social housing, the wealthy over low-income earners, multinationals over public services and private sector interests over individuals as it always has and will continue to do so, so long as it is in power.

What gives away the most about Fine Gael in the budget are the reliefs and incentives targeted to help landlords. Fine Gael, despite the recent Raise the Roof protest and despite there being nearly 10,000 in homelessness with a public outcry on a daily basis over the housing crisis, has prioritised the needs of landlords over tenants.

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