Wednesday, 5 December 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Pearse Doherty: ] The record levels of unemployment have seen our tax receipts collapse and our social welfare spending spiral out of control. If we know it is a problem, why does the Government do nothing about it? Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil talk the talk on growth, the need for jobs and investment in the economy, but they have done nothing about them in office.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: -----that set out an investment strategy to create thousands of jobs. We showed how a €13 billion investment could be funded through the National Pensions Reserve Fund, NPRF, the European Investment Bank, EIB, and the private pension industry and by not cutting the capital budget. Instead, the Government has reduced the capital budget by €500 million. The Taoiseach would be as well taking the Tánaiste, packing the bags of 5,000 young Irish people and bidding them farewell for Canada and Australia. These young people should and could work in the construction sector if the Government did not cut the capital budget.
Fianna Fáil in office turned on the emigration tap, but this Government has refused to turn it off. The people who leave our shores every year are not just numbers. A young woman contacted me recently having just emigrated to Canada with her husband and two young girls. She told me how her parents had described their leaving as being like a death in the family. They mourned her leaving that night like they had mourned her brother's death several years prior. She spoke of her distress at inflicting that on them and at taking their grandchildren away from a close-knit family and of her frustration at feeling like she had no choice.
Her story is familiar but no less shocking - the mortgage that became unaffordable when the jobs were lost, the reality of a dole queue for the first time, the desperation as reminder letters came through the door, the strained meetings with banks and the realisation that the figures did not add up. The members of that young family have uprooted their whole lives and moved to the other side of the world. They will spend Christmas alone this year. Her Facebook page, like many others, is full of best wishes and messages telling her how much she and her children are missed.
Her message of goodbye from this State was a letter from the Department of Social Protection looking for confirmation of her flight details so that it would not overpay her child benefit. If ever proof was needed that the Government lacked compassion, this story is it, yet it has an abundance of compassion for bankers and bondholders. Despite the hype, the 27 bankers who receive more than €500,000 in basic salaries have not suffered a pay cut in this budget. The rest of us must suck it up but, by God, the bankers who caused the problem will be protected at all costs by the Government.
By making an adjustment of €3.5 billion today, the Government will be bringing the total in taxes and cuts to this economy in the past five years to €28 billion. This is its second austerity budget after Fianna Fáil introduced four, but the Government does not plan to stop here. It plans to wrench a further €5 billion out of the economy in the next two budgets to 2015.
As the Taoiseach knows, 2016 marks the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is fair that Deputies and people across the country ask what type of republic will we have 100 years on and what type of state will Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leave to us. They have decimated public services, taxed families beyond the coping point and forced another generation of young Irish people abroad with little hope of return.
The men and women of 1916 did not risk their lives for those three parties to tear the fabric of society. They did not declare the Republic on the steps of the GPO so that this or the previous Government could hand the keys of Government Buildings over to the troika. They stood up for Irish citizens, but the three parties only stand up for bankers, bondholders and vested interests. They have sullied the vision that inspired the women and men of 1916. In doing so, they have failed and continue to fail the people of the State. Their arrogance and lack of compassion knows no bounds. Their claim that there are no alternatives is pathetic.
While listening to the radio last week, I was reminded of the power of ordinary people to bring about change. In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. As a woman and an African American, she had been taught to accept her lot in life, to accept second class citizenship and to accept that there were no alternatives. However, one day she decided that enough was enough and she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. When she was interviewed a few days later, she stated, "The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could stand to be pushed". Rosa Parks's act of defiance that day inspired an entire generation of civil rights campaigners to struggle for a better life. Tired of being pushed around, she decided that she would be pushed around no longer. She stood up for herself and all those like her who were being treated as second class citizens.
In today's budget, the Government has pushed the people of this State as far as they can be pushed. It is time for ordinary people to realise that they do not need to take this anymore. It is time for people to take a stand. Whether it is with Sinn Féin, behind their union banners or in their communities, they can organise and fight back. Citizens have rights. They elected us and can replace us. It is time for ordinary people to draw a line in the sand and to say "No" to the Government's family home tax, its cuts to child benefit and its policies of emigration and unemployment.
When Rosa Parks decided to say enough is enough, she gave people hope that a better future was possible. When she decided to take a stand, she gave people the confidence to follow her lead. Like Rosa Parks, I believe that a better future is possible, that our broken economy can be fixed, that jobs can be created and that our children can have a future in their home country. I believe that there is an alternative to the failed policies of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil. For this reason, my Sinn Féin colleagues and I will be voting against this appalling budget.
Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Here we go again. This is the sixth successive austerity budget, the sixth time that Ministers have announced a vicious attack on the living standards of low and middle income people and their families. This Labour-Fine Gael Government shares the same perverse instincts as the last Fianna Fáil-led Administration and the same unshakable belief that punishing struggling families is somehow fair. It is not. Neither is it acceptable.
It is deeply insulting to the wellbeing, not to mention the intelligence, of citizens to parrot the rhetoric of fairness constantly while delivering policies that devastate their standard of living and their morale. It is a bad joke to speak the language of economic growth and jobs while introducing another contractionary budget that will further damage the domestic economy, lengthen the dole queues and send more of our people onto the emigration trail.
Despite the media hype and the supposed haggling at Cabinet, it turns out that, once again, Fine Gael has it largely its own way. Inequality on Fine Gael's watch comes as no surprise. It does not "do" social solidarity. That is not in its DNA. Fine Gael takes the view that the working poor or people struggling on welfare can be offered up to protect wealth and the wealthy.
Today, the surrender of the Labour Party to this agenda is final and complete. The party of James Connolly is now led by the nose, following a course that brings devastation to low and middle income workers and their families. The Labour Party now defends the very policies that so angered it when in opposition. It stands shoulder to shoulder with a party that it vowed to rein in as partners in government. If Labour's plan on entering government was, as it claimed, to contain and put manners on Fine Gael, its plan has failed spectacularly.
Labour has surely hit rock bottom when the only comfort that its Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, can offer to pensioners who cannot afford the new tax on the family home is that they can defer payment until after they die.
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