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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty It is all well and good for Fianna Fáil to come in here, make jokes and quote Brendan Behan. However, Brendan Behan also said, "It is a good deed to forget a poor joke" and maybe Deputy Cowen should keep that in mind.

Fine Gael's budget is a poor joke, but Fianna Fáil laughing in the face of homeless children is even worse. Let me remind Fianna Fáil of the backdrop to this budget it has carved out with Fine Gael. It is a backdrop in which 10,000 citizens are homeless, 4,000 of them children. That is 4,000 lives, 4,000 childhoods forever altered because of Fine Gael's and Fianna Fail's policies and their simple inability to present a budget that took those children's side. These are children whose only offence was to be born to parents who fell on hard times. How many times must we tell stories like that of Amanda, a teenage girl who is living in a hotel room and whose life is passing her by? How many times do stories like that need to grip the nation before the Government finally presents a budget capable of addressing this crisis? When a teenage girl made homeless by the policies of the Minister's Government has to pour her heart out on national radio to get noticed, what does that say about the Minister, his Government and their last budgets? When the Minister announced his first budget under the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil confidence and supply agreement, Amanda was in emergency accommodation. When he came here last year and announced his second confidence and supply budget with Deputy Michael McGrath, Amanda was still in emergency accommodation. As he takes to his feet today, Amanda is still homeless.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen There is still no Government in the North.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty We know that there are 10,000 other Amandas out there. For them budget day is like "Groundhog Day". The question people ask is why they should trust that anything will change in budget 2019. Will anything be different? Will we be standing in this Chamber again next year, talking about Amanda or another Amanda? The answer to that is probably "Yes". That is because despite all the numbers the Minister threw out on the floor of the House today, the additional capital investment the Minister has provided to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is a paltry €80 million. That is €80 million in the face of a social crisis that this State has never seen before. Deputy Michael McGrath has the cheek to stand up and say that this is a housing budget. Some €800 million was available, plus another €700 million in additional tax revenues. That is a discretionary €1.5 billion available for this budget and the Minister has allocated an additional €80 million in capital. Shame on him. It is a betrayal of the people who are in emergency accommodation. It is a betrayal of those who cannot afford the rents that are being charged in this State and the adults who have to live at home because they cannot afford a house. Deputy Michael McGrath says this is a housing budget but it is far from it.

  We did not get here overnight. No event in the last ten years has shaped the values or attitudes of the people of this island more than the bankers' crash of 2008. It shook this island, every family and every community to the core. Out of the ashes emerged a type of bargain that was foisted on the Irish people, forged in the crisis boardrooms of the political and financial classes. With the economy on its knees, with fear and worry lingering over families in the State, a great scandal was invented. It was the long scam. It was a story saying that somehow the Irish people were to blame for the greed and negligence of the privileged and untouchable few. The story said that we all partied and we all must pay. It was written mostly by the pens of those nameless bankers in white collars, the architects of the economic chaos, men who had accumulated obscene wealth at the expense of the livelihood, trust and the dignity of the Irish people. It is a story absorbed and dispensed by the political class, by the Minister's party and the party opposite. It was a story with a single-minded purpose; to deflect blame from those who caused the crisis. All of a sudden it became the creed of those who should have felt the force of the anger. As a society we have splurged, went the mantra, and as a society we must pay. The people paid, they suffered and they endured. This day, budget day, became a practice of heaping blame and scorn on the Irish people. It was a grim litany of one of the greatest frauds and ideological scandals ever concocted by the leaders of this State. However, it was endured. It was endured because the story only worked when it rested on the other part of the bargain. Again and again the Irish people were told to pay the costs now and reap the rewards later. All the while, the Minister's Government and others dangled that hope for a better future in front of them.

  So the people waited in the isolated rural communities I, and many others, come from. They watched as their way of life collapsed around them. Entire generations of our best and youngest were forced to emigrate and countless families watched as their incomes disappeared and the costs of living became simply unaffordable. However, the story and the bargain of suffer now and enjoy later continued.

  There is no doubt the Minister presented this budget to the House with a looming election in mind. He could have convinced the Irish people that the story was at an end, but now it is time to be honest. Níl aon bhaint ag an bhuiséad seo nó ag an aon cheann roimhe leis an bhob a bhí á bhualadh ag an Rialtas ar dhaoine le deich mbliana anuas. Ní raibh sé seo déanta ach ar mhaithe le beartais déine a chur i gcrích nó le nithe deise a thabhairt amach ag an am ceart. Níorbh botún sealadach, dosheachanta ab ea an cruatan a bhí curtha ar mhuintir na hÉireann le dornán blianta anuas.

  Every step the Minister and his Government have taken has been a deliberate one. It has been a journey of the political class that was calculated and very clearly deliberate. Choices were taken that, like choices the Minister has proposed today, were grounded in the ideas advanced by people who saw their moment in a time of crisis. The dividends following the years of hardship endured by Irish people are not being shared fairly by Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil in this budget. Austerity was the excuse in the past, stability is the excuse now and when the time is right another excuse will be found.

  This budget is the latest step towards a vision for Ireland. It is a vision that sees Ireland as a land divided between the elites and the struggling. It sets two sets of rules - one for those who must prosper always and one for those who will always struggle. It is a vision that fans the embers of the culture of greed that corrupted this State in the past decade. It breathed life into the rotten culture of banks and the wealthiest in society. It is a "Don't worry, your day will come again" one.

  These are the families who suffered and played their part in the bargain. The question to the Minister is this. Where is the reward? Will budget 2019 give them a health service they can rely on? Will they have a place to call home? Will it result in shared prosperity? Will it check the excessive wealth and power at the top? The answer to all of those questions, unfortunately, is "No".

  The Government has presented a budget that attempts to buy the silence of the Irish people and sell them the status quo, that offends their sense of decency and which they know is wrong. They have watched as this Minister of Finance and the one before him presented budget after budget, simply blind to the human suffering that is all around us.

  The Minister and I know that the people of this island were brought up on a set of values that said that the treatment of those most in need is the real measure of a person. Indeed, it is the only true measure of a meaningful society. Yet 100,000 workers, people who go to work early in the morning and do their day's work, return home to a life of poverty because their wages cannot cover the cost of living.

  One in five citizens in this State is on a waiting list for basic medical care, in one of the richest countries in the world. Almost a quarter of Irish workers are low paid by international standards. All this is happening on the Minister's watch. Too many parents, predominantly women, must give up on their career ambitions because they are beggared by the cost of childcare. Countless others are heartbroken in work while their children are being minded by others because the high cost of living demands that two wages come into the house, simply to keep it going.

  Too many families have no rainy day fund of their own. They are doing fine now, just getting by, but they are only ever a few pay cheques away from difficulty. A kitchen appliance failing; the car breaking down; an illness striking or any number of things could quickly become a game-changer for them and their families.

  The dividends of recent growth could and should have been shared fairly and more effectively. That would mean targeting spending in the right way. Budget 2019 should have focused on reducing the costs of necessities so that people's incomes could go further at the end of the week and ordinary people could live a good life now without fear of the future.

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