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 Header Item Ceisteanna ar Reachtaíocht a Gealladh - Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Oireachtas Members (Economic Justice) (Covid-19) Bill 2021: First Stage

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 7
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 93 Next Page Last Page

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy I thank Deputy Cahill for raising this incredibly important issue. The Government is asleep at the wheel on this issue that could lead to devastating loss of employment and investment in many rural communities. For example, the Government position on horticultural peat could close down the mushroom industry, which is critically important in my county of Monaghan as well as in other counties. The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, does not have a notion in terms of the real outworking of this issue. I am asking the Taoiseach to intervene and to engage with the peat and mushroom sectors to ensure we do not have a situation whereby peat is being exported from Ireland at a time when-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I thank the Deputy. Did Deputy Cullinane raise his hand to come in on this issue?

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane No. I was the first to come in and put my hand up this morning-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly My question was whether the Deputy put his hand up to come in on this issue.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane No, not on this issue.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I call Deputy Durkan on this issue.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard J. Durkan Zoom on Bernard J. Durkan On this issue, there is a case that needs to be addressed and that is to reassure the horticultural sector that it is not intended to close it down. If alternatives are available, we need to know about them. I support the points raised by the previous speakers in that regard on the basis that the horticultural area is effectively and essentially carbon neutral.

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Deputy Cahill has been consistent on this issue for quite some time. I point out to Deputies Carthy and Durkan that a working group has been established by the Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Noonan, to examine the future role of peat in the horticultural sector in relation to the long-term solution for peat alternatives for horticultural purposes. I am told that, in the interim, existing stocks are available to meet current demand. I am willing to meet the interests involved if Deputy Cahill or another Deputy can facilitate that.

Bord na Móna intends to remain active in this area. As Members are aware, it is fully focused on renewable energy, recycling and the development of other low-carbon enterprises. There are challenging issues around climate change and responding to it, and there are no easy solutions to it. I do believe that issues can be addressed through just transition and engagement with the key industries. The Government wants to support the mushroom industry. In fact, we have been ongoing supporters of that industry in terms of its capacity to create employment and, through more research, to create even further employment. I met Deputy Cahill some time ago in terms of the bioeconomy and what research can do for the mushroom industry in that respect. I am open to trying to follow through on that with the Deputies.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Unfortunately, all Deputies have not been reached. Deputy Ó Murchú is at the top of the list. We will leave the list to one side and deal with it tomorrow.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane On a point of order, please, a Chathaoirligh.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly If I could finish my sentence, that would be helpful, Deputy. I am simply pointing out where we are. There is a list of 28 Deputies, including me, who have not been reached. What is the Deputy's point of order?

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane Very rarely, a Chathaoirligh, will I take to my feet and raise an issue in relation to fairness of process.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly What is the point of order?

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane You have to accept that I was the first person to put my hand up this morning when you came in.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Okay. That is not a point of order.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane For whatever reason, my name was not on the list.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That is not a point of order.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín May I raise a point of order?

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane It is a point of order-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy Tóibín, please.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane -----because I have important issues to raise, the same as everybody else.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That is not a point of order.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane When people put their names down-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy, please.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane -----and where I am the very first person in the Chamber and put my hand up-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly We are running behind time.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane -----I would expect to be called in a fair way.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Deputy is out of order. It is not a point of order. Does Deputy Tóibín wish to raise a point of order?

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín It is a point of order. I very rarely raise points of order. There was 30 minutes assigned to Questions on Promised Legislation. Every Tuesday, one particular Deputy takes up ten minutes of that time-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That is not a point of order.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín -----and the rest of the Deputies-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That is not a point of order.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Deputy Boyd Barrett had literally one third of the time-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy Tóibín is misusing the time.

(Interruptions).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly That is not a point of order. I am taking nothing else under this.

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould On a point of order-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly There is a long list. Please.

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould I came in at 9.30 this morning and put my name down.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy Gould-----

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould I have a very important question for the Taoiseach about-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy Gould, that is not a point of order.

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould -----SouthDoc in Blackpool. Three months I am raising the issue-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly The Deputy is now eating into the time------

Deputy Thomas Gould: Information on Thomas Gould Zoom on Thomas Gould I cannot raise the issue with the Taoiseach. It is a disgrace.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I am going to try again. I have resumed the seat to take over. The Ceann Comhairle before me was in the middle of this list. There is a very long list of Deputies which will be held over until tomorrow. The list is exactly as we got it.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane Sorry, a Chathaoirligh, with respect, and I do not say this in any disrespect to you, I hold you in the highest regard, but when-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly It is not a point of order, holding me in regard or no regard.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I am sorry, a Chathaoirligh. You were the person who was in the Chair this morning. When I raised my hand, you acknowledged me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy-----

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane You called my name out as the very first person, and yet I was not called. Is that just the answer?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Deputy Cullinane, please resume your seat. I have no idea what point of order you are making. There is a list here before me. It is exactly-----

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I think it is fairly obvious what I am saying.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I will try to explain for the last time before I move on. I have no idea what point of order is being made. I have a list before me. I worked meticulously to that list. I am putting it there and I am moving on. I ask for Deputies' co-operation.

Oireachtas Members (Economic Justice) (Covid-19) Bill 2021: First Stage

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide, in the interest of public solidarity, for the reduction of salaries of Oireachtas members during the currency of certain restrictions implemented in connection with Covid-19; and to provide for related matters.

The object of this Aontú Bill is to bring about a 25% cut in the salaries of Deputies and Senators during Covid level 5 and level 4 lockdowns. I will explain the reasons I believe this is just and the right thing to do. There are two Irelands at the moment and those two Irelands are radically separated. Ireland is in an unprecedented crisis. One in four workers is currently unemployed. That figure is practically the highest it has ever been in the history of the State. Well over 500,000 workers are unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of people are literally seeing their businesses and incomes deleted. There has been a radical reduction of income right across society. Hundreds of thousands of people are being pushed into poverty.

  There is a second type of Ireland and that is the political class. At the same time as the crisis in incomes, the salaries of Deputies have increased. Judges' salaries have increased. Yesterday, I attended the meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach, at which the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath of Fianna Fáil, defended an €80,000 increase to a €210,000 salary. He defended that increase at a time when the incomes of so many people are being absolutely trashed.

  The contrast between these two Irelands could not be more stark. It is breathtaking that the chasm that exists between those two classes of Ireland is larger now than it ever was previously. It is extraordinary that this type of largesse is happening at the precipice of what will be a massive economic crisis. It is as though the political classes are partying just before the country goes down the tubes economically. We have had a budget deficit of €19 billion this year. It is likely that €35 billion will be added to the national debt of this State this year. That will bring the national debt to a whopping €239 billion. That is one of the highest national debts per capita that exist on this planet. It means that every man, woman and child currently owes €47,700. Ireland is a massively indebted country and that leaves us extremely exposed to future shocks. If there is a shock to the economy in three or four years' time and we are carrying this level of debt, we will see exactly the same situation arise as befell this country in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

  I wish to raise an issue that has not really been raised by any other political party in Leinster House during this crisis and that is the fact that when Covid subsides - please God, it will do so soon - there will be an economic crisis in this country. The EU will put pressure on Ireland to get its budget deficit in order. Historically, the only way that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have known to get budget deficits in order is to increase taxes on low and middle income workers and to cut spending on public services such as health. If this Government remains in power for the next two or three years, it is likely that it will implement savage austerity in the near future. In the previous crash, there was a logical reduction in the salaries of Deputies, in line with the reduction in income of the rest of society. However, on this occasion, politicians' incomes are actually going in the opposite direction to the incomes of the rest of society.


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