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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] Some of these involve very modest financial contributions but produce excellent results in healthcare and other fields. There is a marked improvement in the treatment and prevention of malaria in Africa and of childhood tuberculosis and polio. Women in Africa who have had a difficult and medically dangerous delivery, very often on their own or with an ill-trained birth attendant, often suffer subsequently from a dreadful condition called fistula, which can often render them completely incontinent after childbirth, when they may have also lost the baby. I am glad to say Irish Aid is funding operations for women affected and transforming their lives where previously they were shunned and separated from their families and communities as a result of the disaster that had befallen their pregnancies. We are doing very good work, particularly in Africa.

As GDP increases at a steady pace so too must Ireland’s aid budget. If Ireland boasts of some eye-catching economic growth figures then it follows automatically that the aid budget must increase correspondingly both in cash terms and in the percentage of GDP. It will mean our aid budget will relatively quickly hit €1 billion annually. I recognise it is no easy task and will require careful planning and financial management to secure value for money and good outcomes for the people and communities most in need. Good governance and independent oversight are always important especially when budgets increase rapidly. Apart from the moral issues involved there are definite practical and political advantages for this country to have a more active role in this area.

All budgets to some extent are political statements but this one takes the biscuit as one of the most nakedly political and election budgets I have experienced in my time here. Every sentence is designed to secure party advantage more than any other purpose. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Unfortunately in Ireland, people will pay the price.

I saw the timid measures in the budget to support the long cherished concept in Ireland of people being able to buy their own homes. Take a plumber married to a hairdresser, a nurse married to a guard or two teachers married to each other as examples. Until about ten years ago, it was absolutely expected that people with steady jobs and incomes could look forward to purchasing their own homes, either new or second-hand. Under Fine Gael it is slipping away from us. It is a cornerstone of our social structure. When I saw nothing much at all done for people like that but instead a smallish, yet still significant, tax break for private landlords I wondered if the Government was looking at the housing problem through the wrong lens. I called around to the O'Devaney Gardens site the day before yesterday because for 12 years, and since this Government came to office, there has been little progress. The Taoiseach has been down to have photos taken with the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, on the site. I can report a little bit of progress. Of the last two long balconies of apartments one has been substantially knocked down and the second is on the way. Around the site there was evidence of builders working. It is some progress. If one goes up Dominick Street now and looks at the flats on one's left as one goes up, the council is boarding up more and more of them but the big site on the far side of the road just beside the Ilac Centre is still empty. It just has tumbleweed growing on it. Further up, more and more apartments are being boarded up by Dublin City Council. I suggest the Ministers who have been given the responsibility for housing take a walk around the city and look at the dereliction in places like the north inner city. There are big gaps like missing teeth in the framework of streets. The Ministers should give the people in the council a ring and say together they will do something about the houses that have been built on so many sites that have been lying idle for more than 12 years.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly If ever there was an example of a budget that was preparing for an election, it is probably this one. It is short-term rather than long-term in its outlook. No hard decisions have been made. It lacks foresight. It reminds me of some poetry by Seamus Heaney in which he wrote "And whatever you say, you say nothing." The budget is an example of the idea that whatever you do, do nothing. It is a budget that is essentially about making sure it does not upset people, particularly people who are perceived to be the core Fine Gael voters. It is an election budget. I warn the Minister that he has completely messed up. He has messed up on many fronts. On one particular front it is seismic and it will follow the Minister. That is the area of climate change. I know the Minister is worried about it. I will accentuate those worries.

We have had a huge amount of social change in the last number of years. Social change has been brought about because the people are ahead of politicians and many people in this House on many issues. The people are ahead of the people in this House when it comes to climate change. As the father of young children, I assure the Minister there is an intergenerational thing going on here as regards education and the fact we need to maintain our planet. We need to maintain it for future generations, including my children and the Minister of State's children. The Minister has let them down today through his lack of foresight and measures. He has let them down and it will have consequences for our country on a scale that has not been seen before. It will have consequence for our children. Politically and electorally it will have consequences for the Minister, Fine Gael and its colleagues in government.

We are one of the few countries that has climate change legislation. The failure to kick on from that and bring about measures to change behaviour will not go down well with the public because it is ahead of us on the need to change. It is around us. We will face it this Friday with another storm coming. We have seen the changes in our weather patterns over the past number of years. The public is up for this. If one was to be directly political about this, the public is conditioned for it but some of the Fine Gael lobbyists and vested interests are not. The can is being kicked down the road until we will be at a detrimental stage. It will have consequences for the Minister. He has totally underestimated the sentiments of people on this issue. Working people will have to pay fairly significant fines in future as a result of the Minister's lack of foresight. The Minister for Finance spoke absolute garbage in his few words about putting in place plans and assessments on the implementation of this. To the naked political eye, anyone looking at this can see the Minister did not have the capacity or political will to take on the most significant issue facing every generation after us, which is climate change, a couple of days after the most detrimental UN report on this issue ever. Our modern country, which is a country of perceived wealth, has ignored it. They are the facts. It is an indictment of the Minister and his colleagues at the Cabinet table.

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