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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 Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae] These people and businesses are being attacked. It is a massive attack on rural Ireland. The word "rural" is mentioned six or seven times in the budget, which shows that the Government was not really thinking about rural Ireland when it was putting it together. In the programme for Government the word "rural" was included 70 or 80 times. It was listening then, but unfortunately it seems to have stopped listening. I hate talking about a person when he or she is not present to defend himself or herself, but we have a Minister of State in charge of tourism from County Kerry, and it is hard to believe that this VAT increase for the tourism industry is happening under his watch. The people who create much-needed employment in County Kerry, along the western seaboard and all around rural Ireland are reeling today, trying to work out the effect this increase will have on their businesses. They cherish and adore their businesses, and often have built them up over many years with their families. If the Government really thought things had to change it could have increased VAT by 1% or 2%, but the increase from 9% to 13.5% means the sector is reeling this evening. These people are terribly disappointed with the Minister, the Minister of State and the Government for doing this.

On agriculture, while €57 million has been provided in additional funding, and I welcome the three-year extension for the young farmer stamp duty relief, our beef sector is in a terrible state. The farming community and the Irish Farmers Association said there had to be a direct payment to people involved in the suckler industry. To retain our suckler herd at the level it is at a scheme providing €200 or €250 per cow was required, but such a scheme seems to be absent. While we will study the finer details of this budget over the next couple of days, I cannot see that this measure is contained within it, and I have studied it from end to end. I am terribly disappointed with that, as is everyone involved in farming up and down the length and breadth of the country. The beef sector was desperately looking forward to the implementation of this scheme.

There was not much in the Minister's speech about rural Ireland. We desperately need community banking, but we did not see any commitment to it in the budget. We are saying that our post offices should be kept open, yet there is no sign of using them for community banking.

On justice, the budget of An Garda Síochána was increased by €60 million, and I welcome the recruitment of 800 gardaí. However, at the weekend there was a skeleton staff of gardaí in Kerry which struggled to provide the service of which we are so appreciative. They were left in a very vulnerable position due to the slashing of the budget for overtime, which was cut completely for the period between now and the end of the year. Something will have to be done to address that. We have to resource our gardaí adequately and make sure that An Garda Síochána has the resources to provide a proper service.

Projects including a new courthouse for Tralee in County Kerry have not been allocated money. I will continue to lobby on behalf of projects such as that. Various commitments have been made in terms of the Macroom bypass. Will that be advanced in 2019? Schemes such as that must go ahead. I welcome the €40 million in additional funding for pavement repairs and rehabilitation works on regional and local roads. In County Kerry there are roads which are virtually impassible currently, including the Dale Road. They have completely subsided into the ground, and funding must be made available for such roads.

I am very glad to see that payments will finalise for the Kerry sports academy at Tralee Institute of Technology, which will be completed this year. This will be a state-of-the-art facility and I very much welcome it.

The budget has provided tax reductions for low and middle-income earners, but those people will be no better off. People on the minimum wage are getting an increase, but once taxes are taken out of their wages they will have very little extra. I am very worried about people who are struggling with rent, trying to pay rent and mortgages and who are living on a low income at a time when the cost of living is continuing to increase. There must be incentives for people to keep going to work and progressing themselves. That is what people want to do. The budget gives very little to everyone. The tourism industry seems to be paying for much of it, and I am very worried about that. I appreciate the fact that the minimum wage will increase, but it will mean very little to people at the end of the day. The tourism sector will be outraged by today's budget.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I acknowledge that many of the measures introduced today by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, are extremely welcome. The across-the-board increases on all social welfare payments will be of benefit to a considerable segment of our population. However, the ordinary working man is getting a smaller increase than those on social welfare, and that is very unfair. It is wrong: we must make it pay to go to work. I will return to that matter shortly.

I share the sentiments expressed by Social Justice Ireland, which has long advocated a guiding vision for Irish society based on the values of human dignity and pursuit of the common good. In its pre-budget submission it outlined how these values are central to the vision of a nation in which all men, women and children have what they require to live life with dignity and to fulfil their potential, including sufficient income, access to the services they need and active inclusion in a genuinely participatory society.

The VAT hike for the tourism sector is expected to cost the sector over €400 million. This is a retrograde step. During the week an increase to 11% was mooted. Why was there no such incremental increase? The step outlined by the Minister is very unfair. This really was a lost opportunity in terms of a just taxation regime for business and the tourism sector in rural Ireland. We were told today that the increase was necessary not only to generate greater income but also to avoid putting pressure on other areas of taxation. The Minister would have us believe that the tax increase is like a golden goose that will help solve the chronic problems in housing, schools and health. This is a classic penny wise, pound foolish tax. There seems to be two Irelands - urban Ireland and rural Ireland. The Minister tried to offset the damage that will be done by saying he is going to give additional funding of almost €50 million to help the tourism sector and to mediate that funding through the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. It was a sop to ensure that the Minister of Transport, Tourism and Sport would vote for the budget this morning. It is the same as saying that a person will have his or her legs broken, but will be given a nice new pair of crutches to help him or her along afterwards. We know from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport that tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors and that it has significant potential to play a further role in Ireland’s economic renewal. In 2016, tourism was responsible for overseas earnings, which are very important, of €4.5 billion. Combining the data from the domestic market and international visitors, total tourism revenue for the economy is estimated to be around €7.8 billion. The tourism sector supports 150,000 jobs in the accommodation and food sector alone, and overall employment in tourism is estimated to be in the region of 220,000. The Minister of State is a rural Deputy. He should know that this move is unbearable for rural Ireland. It is an awful body blow.

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