ULA TD’s speaking in main Dáil debate on the budget

Richard Boyd Barrett:

I wish I could say otherwise but today is another day of shame for this Government. It is not a day of hard choices, as it kept repeating. It is a day of cruel choices inflicted by those who are protecting the privileged and the powerful on those who are struggling and in despair. It is a day when it has driven tens of thousands of families who were teetering on the edge of poverty into poverty. It is a day when it has hammered a few more nails into the coffin of the battered Irish economy.

I say to the Tánaiste that this Government had a choice. A few simple measures could have done away with the need for all the suffering it has inflicted on ordinary families today. If it had simply enforced, as we suggested, the 12.5% corporation tax rate and increased in a significant way the taxes on those earning in excess of €100,000 a year, as 88% of the population now want it to do, it could have done away with the need for all this suffering and despair and all those families being driven into poverty.

If the Government had done that not only could it have prevented these vicious cuts but it would have had the resources to reverse some of the most vicious cuts imposed in recent years. It could have abolished the universal social charge for those on average incomes. It could have lifted the special needs assistant, SNA, caps that have caused such suffering to some of the most vulnerable families. It could have reinstated the Christmas bonus for social welfare recipients and for pensioners. It could have reinstated the home help hours for the elderly and the disabled. It could have reversed the increases in registration fees and the cuts in grants for students and many more of the nasty cuts that have been imposed in the past two years. To do all of that would have cost approximately €3 billion. Those measures alone would have been covered just by making the corporations that made €70 billion in pre-tax profits last year pay a little more tax, and all that suffering could have been avoided.

Instead, the Government made a coldhearted decision to attack those who have nothing or next to nothing yet again. The property tax will cost ordinary families hundreds of euro, €300 or €400 extra per year. How will the 1.3 million people in this country who have less than €50 a month left over pay the charge? They simply do not have it. How will they pay for the cuts to child benefit? If they have three children, they will lose €38 per month. How will they deal with the €20 per month loss in earnings if they are working, as a result of the abolition of the weekly PRSI allowance? The 1.3 million people with less than €50 a month after they pay their bills will have that €50 and more taken from them as a result of these measures. This will drive them into poverty.

Then there are some of the really nasty cuts. The decision to cut the respite care grant for families with children with disabilities is obnoxious. Some €356 has been taken from families with disabled children or family members when it could give them some respite once a year. It is an outrage to cut the back-to-school allowance by €50 for some of the poorest families in the country. The Government had choices to avoid this suffering and make those who have the money and the profits pay a little more so the poor and the struggling do not have to struggle more than they do. The Government could have marshalled funds by imposing taxes to fund a stimulus and jobs programme to put people in this country back to work so they can contribute to the economic recovery we so badly need. None of that will happen and, shamefully, the Government restated its commitment to selling off our forests and other State assets and enterprises that could be the vehicles for job creation and economic recovery. Shame on the Tánaiste and shame on this Government. This is a recipe for long-term economic depression and suffering for hundreds of thousands of families. The Government had a choice; why did it not take it?

Clare Daly:

There is a huge element of the annual Christmas pantomime about this debate. There are the usual set pieces and routines. We have heard it all before. There is mock indignation from the people who started the austerity and robust defence of the measures from the other side of the House. For the people outside the gates and in their homes, however, this is not a pantomime and there will not be a happy ending. People are terrified and angry. We can say what we like in here and the Government can dress it up, but everything has got worse for people. Any leeway they had is gone. There are people who were in work and are no longer in work. There are people who are in work who are working harder for considerably less.

The only solutions to these problems being put forward by the Government is to dish up more of the same. This is the economics of lunacy. No matter how one dresses it up, this is Robin Hood in reverse. The Government is robbing the poor to continue to allow those at the top to get away scot free. One would expect that of Fine Gael. They are playing to their constituency and doing what they said they would do.

For the Labour Party, on the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the party to stand over this and for Labour Deputies to have more interest in their mobile telephones than in the budget debate is a disgusting indication of how far the party has fallen. It has chosen to wage war on ordinary people. The budget contains not a single measure to tackle the wealthy. If the actual rate of corporation tax were imposed and corporations were forced to pay what they owe, it would negate any other measure in the budget. I do not even speak about tackling the high earners or going after them with a wealth tax. Instead, the Government has chosen to target the vulnerable.

Thirty years ago, the Labour Party’s predecessors brought down a Government on the issue of VAT on children’s shoes. Labour Party Deputies now vote for a home tax. Let us call it what it is. This home tax is the equivalent of VAT on 40 pairs of children’s shoes, yet they sit there with not a bother on them. It is a disgrace.

We have dealt with the issue of targeting mothers by taxing maternity benefit and stripping electricity payments and telephone allowances from pensioners. People who have worked all their lives see their entitlement to jobseeker’s benefit reduced, respite care is slashed, hospital charges are increased and so on.

The big one is the home tax. A basic roof over one’s head is a massive whopping liability for so many people, and the Government is asking them to pay a tax on it. Council tenants are included in the net because local authorities will be levied for all the houses in their stock. They have no money so they will pass the tax on to tenants. Poor people are allowed the luxury of deferring the payment and paying a higher rate of interest. This is lunacy. Thankfully, I do not think people will pay the tax because they do not have the means to do so.

There are about 200 gardaí outside the gate of Leinster House today. I thought they were here to stop the daylight robbery that is going on in here, but it became apparent that they are here to protect the members of the Government. They need protection because the people are not going to stand idly by and allow them drive the country into the depths of despair. They will not tolerate it.


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