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Budget Statement 2021 (Continued)

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 999 No. 2
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath] JUSTICE/SAFER COMMUNITIES

Turning to justice, I acknowledge the very important role played by our gardaí and other emergency services in recent months. We have all witnessed at first hand their invaluable work in protecting our most vulnerable people and supporting communities.

As part of the additional 2020 measures I referred to earlier, an extra €7.5 million is being provided for the Garda fleet. This will provide for the purchase of additional Garda vehicles, the continuation of hired community vehicles, and increased telecommunications and vehicle fit-out improvements. To support An Garda Síochána further in 2021, I am allocating an additional €147 million to the justice sector, an increase of almost 6%. Over €27 million will go towards Covid-19 supports, with the balance of additional funds providing up to 620 new Garda recruits to add to the predicted end-2020 force number of 14,500; recruitment in the region of 500 staff for administrative roles to facilitate the continued redeployment of trained gardaí to front-line policing; funding for the inquest into the Stardust tragedy; Courts Service modernisation and funding for Prison Service compensation schemes; the implementation of protections for vulnerable witnesses in sexual offence cases on foot of the O’Malley review; and funding for the Parole Board.

I am also increasing capital investment across the justice sector by more than €50 million next year. This means that in excess of €258 million will be available to support further investment in ICT for An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service, construction of the Forensic Science Laboratory, and the redevelopment and modernisation of Limerick Prison.

CHILDCARE

The Government is continuing its commitment to support children and young people and those persons who come to this country seeking international protection. I am, therefore, pleased to announce an additional allocation of €120 million for the Department with responsibility for children, equality, disability, integration and youth, a 6% increase on 2020. This allocation provides an additional €61 million for Tusla; €25 million for international protection seekers accommodation; €5 million for youth services and organisations; and a further €30 million for the delivery of other services within the Department and agencies under its aegis. The provision to the Department includes a €638 million investment in early years and gives continued support for both universal and targeted subsidies under the national childcare scheme in 2021.

OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE

The Government is playing its role in the international community. Therefore, I am providing an additional €30 million to the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2021. This funding will see our official development aid package increase to €867 million. Together with our participation on the UN Security Council, where we are now at the heart of decision-making on matters of vital importance, our continued investment in overseas aid will enhance and strengthen our presence internationally.

EXPENDITURE REFORM

Looking ahead, we must be agile in our response to the many challenges we face and I believe that this budget delivers on that. However, the resources available to Government are not limitless. Over the medium term, we will have to ensure that our approach to public expenditure is sustainable. Now more than ever, taxpayers’ money needs to be focused on outcomes. The money we spend must lead to better services for our people, and every part of Government will need to ensure value for money is achieved. This will be delivered through reforms to the public spending code, particularly around how we manage larger capital projects. Initiatives such as the spending review process, performance budgeting and equality budgeting will also have an important role to play.

Economic progress is about much more than GDP or, indeed, the scale of resources allocated on budget day. It is about how successful we are in improving public services, about how we care for and provide for one another, and about the quality of life in our communities and in our environment. I am, therefore, committed to developing a well-being budget framework to present a balanced picture of how Irish society is progressing, and to guide how we allocate resources in future. Further details of this and other initiatives are outlined in the expenditure report and in the citizen’s guide to the budget, both of which are published today.

CONCLUSION

We do not have to look far into our history to see moments of great uncertainty for our country. We have faced what have often seemed like insurmountable challenges. However, what is common across these periods of great difficulty is that we have always come back stronger. While there is no doubting that the weeks and months ahead will be difficult and, of course, the journey ahead is uncertain, we must not lose faith in ourselves, our communities and our country to meet these challenges, as we have done in the past. I assure the Irish people that this Government will do everything in its power to protect our people. Ireland will get through this. We will stand together and we will persevere. The budget puts in place the foundations for our economic recovery and a brighter future for all our people. In 1963, President Kennedy stood in our national Parliament and said: "It is that quality of the Irish, the remarkable combination of hope, confidence and imagination, that is needed more than ever today." These words are equally relevant today. Let all of us who share this island, from wherever we come, now move forward with a renewed and shared sense of confidence in the hope of a better tomorrow.

I commend this budget to the House.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I wish to share time with Deputy Mairéad Farrell.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty Today's budget comes at a time like no other, a time of great uncertainty and, for many, hardship. Covid-19 has upended and disrupted the lives of us all.

Táimid ag déileáil leis an cháinaisnéis seo ag am iontach annamh. Seo am ina bhfuil a lán neamhchinnteacht agus do go leor, seo am an chruacháis. Bhí tionchar ag Covid-19 orainn uilig agus tá ár saol bun os cionn mar gheall air sin.

It has impacted people in different ways. Citizens with disabilities face unprecedented challenges, with many at breaking point. Families have seen their incomes drop and they worry how they will cover their bills at the end of the month. Our health service, underfunded and mismanaged by Fine Gael for a decade, is under severe pressure like never before. Businesses are fighting for their very survival. This budget needed to respond to this and the continuing threat posed by Brexit by protecting workers and families as they face the continued threat of Covid-19. This budget needed to provide certainty - certainty that their incomes will not fall off a cliff, certainty that the Government will do all it can to protect their jobs, and certainty that our health service has the capacity to weather the storms ahead. This budget has failed to provide that certainty. It repeats a pattern of behaviour that has marked this Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Government since it took power – indecisive, unprepared, too slow to act and lacking the ambition this moment demands.

The Government will defend this budget with worn-out excuses and will say it is all it can afford. It will say it cannot tackle the major cracks in our society just at this time and that we must wait. However, not only is that not good enough, it is simply not true. A decade ago, taxpayers bailed out the banks to the tune of €64 billion, picking up the pieces after Fianna Fáil torpedoed our economy and wrecked the public finances. Today, we had an opportunity to do something very different - to bail out workers and families at a time of great uncertainty, to seize this moment by permanently increasing capacity in our hospitals and tackling the housing crisis once and for all, and to rebuild an economy that is stronger, fairer and better.

Bhí an deis againn inniu rud neart difriúil a dhéanamh. Bhí an deis againn lámh chuidithe a thabhairt d'oibrithe ag am na neamhchinnteachta agus geilleagar na tíre seo a atógáil ar bhealach a bheadh níos láidre, níos córa agus níos fearr.

The risk is not that we do too much, it is that we do too little, and we can see that in the Government's plan. Indeed, close to €6 billion is unallocated in the Government's plan because it does not know what to do. Today, the Government should have tackled core areas, such as unaffordable childcare costs, underfunded disability services, a dysfunctional housing market and a healthcare system that is crying out for significant investment. Failures in these areas by successive Governments have undermined our resilience and have limited our ability to combat the virus and weather the storm.

Nowhere is this more true than in our health service. Our hospitals and healthcare staff are under immense pressure. A decade of underfunding, mismanagement and neglect under Fine Gael has left them in a vulnerable position. The Government cannot say it was not warned. As far back as 2009, the recommendations were clear. We had 289 critical care beds and we were told we needed 579 by this year. How many do we have today? We have 280. Instead of increasing the number of beds over a decade of Fine Gael Government, we have entered 2020 with fewer critical care beds than we had a decade ago.


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