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 Header Item Special Educational Needs Services Provision (Continued)
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Ambulance Services

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 809 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue] I will indicate to the Minister that my party has ring-fenced education spending in our pre-budget submissions. We put it to him that he needs to do the same and protect education. I ask that he does that. Perhaps he might respond to me.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Minister will have an opportunity to respond. I call Deputy O'Brien and then the Minister.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Even if by some miracle, the Cabinet decided to ring-fence the education budget this year and not force the Minister to look for savings of €44 million and possibly €66 million, we will still see cuts because we have had multi-annual year announcements. We will see another reduction in capitation grants of 1% in 2014 and another 1% in 2015 so even if a collective decision was taken at this stage to protect the education budget, we will still see a reduction. We might not get to the question in respect of the Education at a Glance report but that shows that our percentage of public expenditure on education is decreasing from 13.7% to 9.7%. We are now ranked 29th in the OECD in respect of how much we spend on education. I believe the Minister is serious about building a high-quality education sector and a knowledge-based economy but we cannot do so if we keep cutting our budgets at a time when we have an increased number of children going to schools. It is impossible. Something has to give. There must be a line where the quality of education will be directly impacted if we continue to cut and I believe we have reached that point. I believe the Minister is also of the view that have we reached such a point. The Government as a collective needs to seriously look at ring-fencing the education budget.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn We must understand where we all are, not just in this country but across the whole of Europe and indeed in Northern Ireland where there are reductions. People are struggling, salaries have been reduced, people have lost their jobs in many cases and businesses have had to let people go in order to survive. While we have been able to ring-fence a certain aspect of the education budget by virtue of the growing population, I have not and nobody else would have been able to isolate or ring-fence in its entirety an entire budget. They might be able to suggest it in Opposition but if they had to implement it, it would be a different case because other pressures would arise.

At the moment, this country and republic can only borrow money on terms and conditions we can afford from one source. That is what the loss of economic sovereignty means. Hopefully, we will be out of this situation by the end of this calendar year. We will still have to borrow money but we will not be subject to the diktats of the troika as we currently are. The troika has said we must get our budget deficit down in a series of steps to just under 3% of GDP in two years.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins At the expense of people who need it.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy may not like the realities of the world but she cannot ignore them, in the same way as I do not like them either.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Minister, without interruption.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins Why is he implementing them?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy saw what happened in Greece where the country nearly closed down and had to change. We must navigate our way back to regaining our economic sovereignty so that we control our own destiny. Hopefully, by the end of this year, we will be in a position where we will be able to borrow money on our terms at a price we can afford and be able to deploy our resources in a way that does not dictate the speed at which we recover a balance in our budget. If we do not have a balance in the budget and control our own moneys and how we deploy them, we are not an independent people. Every person who comes out of unemployment and re-enters a job if we can stimulate the economy to create and sustain that job saves the taxpayer about €20,000 on average. When a person moves from being on social welfare and support systems to getting a job and salary and paying whatever tax is due on that, the overall average figure is a saving of €20,000. Therefore, stimulating and managing the economy to create employment is one of the overall responsibilities of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. It is against that backdrop that we must balance matters. Every organisation and household has to live in the same world. The fact that we are trying to do it does not mean we like doing it.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The fact that we have to do it does not mean we either approve of it or like it. We do not.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins You are the Labour Party that is supposed to be representing the ordinary working man and woman.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Minister, without interruption.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins What about corporation tax?

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn All of those measures have been looked at and will no doubt be looked again and those cases will be made but I am charged with answering questions relating to education and am trying to make the case that in a budget in round figures of €8 billion, I must look for a figure of €44 million and possibly an additional figure.

Returning to the point raised by Deputy McConalogue when I was asked where I could find that money, I presume it will have to come from within my own budget. I indicated that the only area that had money of that order and scale where one could do it without a range of other things happening was the pupil-teacher ratio but that was by way of illustration. I said that to find that kind of money, the pupil-teacher ratio is an obvious place where one would start to look. That is what I said and what I intended to convey. No decision has been taken yet in respect of the budget for 2014.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Is it possible to get a commitment?

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Topical Issue Debate

Ambulance Services

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy Clearly, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, is not the Minister for Health. I accept that this week is an extraordinary one in that there is a Committee Stage debate so I ask the Minister of State to pass on my comments to the Minister and I would welcome a response if there is a further one. I have tabled this Topical Issues matter on a number of occasions, possibly eight or ten, and it has now been selected. What prompted me to do so was the fact that on 19 May 2013, a 46 year old man died in Naas. This individual may well not have survived but there was a very long delay in the ambulance arriving at the scene. He was with his 14 year old daughter, which makes the situation even more tragic. Gardaí were on the scene quite quickly and were able to revive him but the delay in the ambulance getting there certainly did not give him the chance he needed. I am told by people working in the ambulance service that one must get to somebody within the first eight minutes or get them to a hospital within eight minutes for them to stand the best possible chance of surviving.

There have been some modifications to the ambulance services in Kildare. On this occasion, there were two ambulances available. The hospital is only a kilometre from where this happened. One ambulance was out on a call while the paramedic in the second one had to go home ill so that second ambulance was not available. The delay happened because there was no back up ambulance.

People might not understand how large County Kildare is but it is the fourth most populated county in the country with a population of 210,000. I fully accept that developments like the call centre and other examples of centralising services can produce efficiencies but one must have an ambulance and a back up ambulance within a realistic distance and properly staffed to make sure this scenario does not happen.


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