Thursday, 8 December 2005
Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed).
Dinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate. There was a great air of expectation and anticipation prior to the budget. People expected a great deal because there was never as much in the coffers. As our spokesperson, Deputy Bruton, said yesterday, the Government is in receipt of €1 billion a week from the taxpayer and Exchequer receipts have increased under every heading. People expected something new and innovative in yesterday's budget. However, considering it in the cold light of day, the most charitable adjective to describe it is mediocre. A number of commentators said it was dull while others said it was a damp squib and was not innovative. I concur with these descriptions because the Minister had an opportunity to do something new but he allocated money here and there where he felt there was a demand for it.
At long last, the Government has recognised that child care had been badly neglected and something had to be done. It is a small step in the right direction but the Government admitted it will take five years to complete its plan. The elderly have also been neglected and the scandal of illegal nursing home charges went on for years. The patients and their relatives are entitled to compensation worth €1 billion and it is disappointing it has taken so long to do anything about that problem.
I welcome the significant increases in social welfare payments, which are three or four times the rate of inflation. However, when one considers the stealth taxes introduced by the Government and other expenses that must be paid by the elderly and other recipients, they will not be much better off this time next year. The social welfare system throws up a number of anomalies. If one is in receipt of a short-term benefit such as unemployment benefit and then takes up a community employment scheme, one is not entitled to other benefits such as free fuel and so on, but if one is in receipt of unemployment assistance, one qualifies. There is little difference between a short-term and a long-term payment. The same rate is paid and it is unfair that these people do not receive the ancillary benefits.
Being parochial, I ask the Minister what is in the budget for the people of Donegal. Two years ago, the then Minister for Finance announced the decentralisation programme and Donegal was promised 400 jobs. These Civil Service, permanent jobs are badly needed and they are not like the jobs we have had in some of the traditional industries which have been relocated to Europe, Central America, Asia and elsewhere. It is very disappointing that these jobs will not be decentralised to County Donegal until 2010 at the earliest. They were to have been decentralised by 2006 but it will be 2010 before accommodation is available to transfer these civil servants to County Donegal, if it ever happens.
Apart from unemployment, one of the biggest problems we face is the inadequacies of the health service in the county. I was disappointed there was no recognition of these inadequacies in yesterday's budget. Letterkenny General Hospital needs 60 or 70 additional beds. As I speak, there are people on trolleys in that hospital. Each day there are ten, 17 or 24 people on trolleys. These numbers are available on a daily basis. I was very disappointed little was said in yesterday's budget speech about making funds available to address this long running difficulty.
Ní raibh mórán sa cháinaisnéis faoi chúrsaí Gaeltachta. Ní raibh ach abairt amháin faoin Roinn agus tá na deacrachtaí céanna sa Ghaeltacht agus atá sa chuid eile den chondae agus den tír. Tá súil agam go mbeidh deis agam tuilleadh a rá faoin ábhar sin atá chomh tábhachtach do na daoine ina gcónaí sa Ghaeltacht. Tá dífhostaíocht ag cur isteach orthu cosúil le daoine eile ar fud na tíre.