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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 Eamon Ryan: Information on Eamon Ryan Zoom on Eamon Ryan] None is particularly good at this at present, which is really frightening. The Germans, whom everybody thought were brilliant with the Energiewende, are stuck now with their coal lobby needs. The UK had many early quick wins and was great on diplomacy but, similarly, it does not have a clever energy policy yet. Ireland is not alone. We are not the worst and we are not laggards. Fine Gael is the laggard, but the Irish people are ready, willing and able to do their bit. I am convinced of that. However, they need a Government that helps them and gives a lead.

  What Mary Robinson said yesterday morning was right, although I do not know if the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan, heard her. The simple point she made is that we do this because it makes us human. When we build a town, city, neighbourhood or community where the walker and cyclist are kings we create a social transformation. One gets a better space. I am old enough to remember what it was like on the streets in the 1960s and early 1970s, before there were so many cars. It was more human and socially richer. Similarly with energy, when we start to put a solar panel on everybody's roof, with a heat pump at the back, an electric vehicle at the front and people balancing, trading and creating their own power that will be empowering for us as human beings, as it will be when we create a landscape where every county, acre, parish and valley is special and is at the front line of the transition. The great advantage of the tackling climate change project is that it belongs to everybody. The response belongs to every political party, not to one and certainly not just ours. We must spread the belief that we can and should do this. We do it because it is special everywhere. It creates an urban environment that is special and a rural environment that is special. Everywhere is part of it because we are all part of the one integrated system that must rise to this incredible challenge.

  We should be urging green in everything we do and we should do it for real, not just as a marketing ploy. If we do so, it weaves a cloth that is embroidered with dreams. It gives us a sense of purpose and a sense of being special as a country. We can and will be leaders in this, but we will not do it if we baulk every time a hard decision is required. We will not do it if we are afraid of making mistakes, and we will make mistakes. It will be difficult. However, in making mistakes we will be at the forefront of the industrial revolution that is happening. A better economy and a more humane society will emerge from it. This is the way the world and investment are going. As a sign, I heard this evening that we are about to launch our green bond tomorrow. I welcome that. It is another thread that gives one hope. The people in the bonds market say the reason they are doing this is that this is where the new economy is going. That is where the money is and it is what people want and expect a modern, enlightened, forward thinking country to be. In addition, it will be at a lower interest rate than if we were trying to raise money in the old fossil fuel economy.

  We will be able to tap into it because people in Ireland are good at this transition. We are brilliant at balancing renewable power on a grid. We are good at efficiency. Our industry is relatively clean. Irish farmers are superb at managing their land. They should be given the chance and the signals to do it in a way whereby they are properly rewarded for storing carbon. Irish people are just as ambitious and keen to make this transition as any other people, if not more so. It is still a decent country with decent people who are willing to do the right thing, and in this budget at this time that would have been taking climate seriously.

Deputy Seamus Healy: Information on Seamus Healy Zoom on Seamus Healy I welcome the opportunity to speak on budget 2019. The budget is shamefully inadequate in view of the extreme crisis in housing and health and the need to fully restore cuts in welfare, disability provision, public service pay and pensions and other areas. Some might say that today's budget is a missed opportunity. It is not. It is a conscious and deliberate policy decision by Fine Gael, the Independent Alliance and Fianna Fáil to protect the massive increase in wealth of the Irish super rich from fair taxation and to make further tax concessions to them. Prudent budgeting does not require limiting spending to the shamefully inadequate figures in today's budget. The European Union's fiscal treaty does not require it either, and it does not forbid raising extra revenue provided it is recurrent. Significant additional income could have been raised if the Government was prepared to make the super rich pay their fair share in taxation. The Minister said numerous times that his income tax and USC measures are to ease the burden on those on low and middle incomes. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a budget for the super rich.

What happened in this budget? According to the CSO, 1.18 million workers are on incomes of less than €30,000 per year. Some 1 million of them are PAYE workers and 180,000 are self-employed. They comprise 40% of the workforce. There is no income tax gain for the 1 million PAYE workers in this category, not even a cent. The income tax gain for the 180,000 self-employed is the princely sum of €40 per year, less than €1 per week. The EU tells us that inflation next year will be 1.3%, which will wipe out the huge figure of €40 per year. There is an increase of €5 in social welfare payments. Social welfare recipients must wait until next March to get it and it does not go anywhere near restoring the pre-cut levels of payment. For the third year in a row there is no increase in child benefit.

Contrast that to what has happened to people of wealth, the rich and powerful in our society. The CSO says that 53,000 individuals have incomes ranging from €150,000 to €2 million per annum. They get the full tax and USC benefits of this budget, totalling €13.1 million. There is a golden circle of rich and powerful individuals in this society who have not been touched by the budget. There is no wealth tax on their assets, and they have huge assets. The top 10% of these wealthiest individuals have assets that are €40 billion above peak boom levels. They will not pay a cent on them. The overall financial assets are now €77 billion above peak boom levels and there is not a single cent of taxation on them either. The 300 wealthiest individuals who have €100 billion will not pay a cent on those assets.

Last week, the Comptroller and Auditor General reported on how these individuals avoided tax. He described it as tax avoidance by the super rich. Some 83 of these high net worth individuals, with in excess of €50 million in assets, declared taxable income of less than the average industrial wage of less than €36,500. It is shameful.

With regard to the banks, Bank of Ireland, AIB and Permanent TSB had profits last year of €2.5 billion. They did not pay a euro in tax on them and they will not pay one euro this year or for the next 20 years. The last Government and this Government have exempted them from such tax. These are the banks that the taxpayer bailed out. They are the banks that brought huge and savage austerity on the backs of families throughout this country. They continue to evict families from their family homes, but they will not pay a single cent in tax.

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