Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Financial Resolutions - Budget Statement 2020
Barry Cowen (Offaly, Fianna Fail)
Somewhere under the Minister’s couch, lodged between Greystones Tidy Towns submission and Fine Gael’s plans for rural Ireland, are the missing millions in his Department.
On childcare, we remain deeply concerned about the roll-out of the national childcare scheme. The Government's obsession with announcements before planning and publicity before resources risks undoing a crucial project for hard-working parents. The key test is providing quality childcare that is affordable and accessible across the country. So far, all we have seen is the old story of delays rather than delivery.
In respect of public pay, Fianna Fáil believes in a strong public service. At the heart of the confidence and supply arrangement is the commitment to invest in public services at a minimum 2:1 ratio above the tax cut agenda previously driven on by Fine Gael. Future pressures on the Lansdowne Road agreement must be dealt with through an agreed framework that recognises the immense contribution public sector workers make. For example, the failure to achieve pay equality for hospital consultants places further pressure on an embattled health service. The principle of fairness has to be at the heart of this process.
He is not here unfortunately - I am sure he will tune in - but over the past several years, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, has been a one-man policy Cape Canaveral. He has been firing rockets across all Departments, expect his own. The Minister for photobombing has been missing in action in his own portfolio. Instead, athletes across Ireland look nervously over their shoulders for a rogue member of the Cabinet. The Minister is a scary story sportspeople tell their children when they are bold. If his name is said three times in the mirror, he will appear in it for a selfie. No medal winner is safe from an unwanted photo and a badly misspelt namecheck by Shane Ross. All the while, however, commuters are crammed like sardines into train carriages or stuck in traffic jams. He has continually overlooked his ministerial responsibility and over the past four budgets, he has moved through his Department without a trace.
The targeted social protection measures for those living alone and the qualified child increase are badly needed to help the most vulnerable in society. Core payments will be protected in the face of grave uncertainty. In the context of preparing for Brexit, we have fought for fairness in allocating what resources there were. The gains in our State pension that we achieved over the past three years are secure, but it is regrettable that additional advances were not put forward. Allowing older people to live independently in their own homes should be a core objective. Even the Fine Gael manifesto called for older people to be able to live with dignity. That is why we fought for 1 million additional home help hours and boosts to the living alone allowance. In my constituency earlier this week, I attended Tullamore Hospital again to discuss a package for someone exiting that hospital. A new package has not been delivered in my county since June. Older people built this country and they deserve peace and security in their retirement. They deserve to get what they have been told they will get. They would much rather be in a position whereby they could be assured of such a package but that is not the case. I have heard commitment after commitment and denial after denial on the other side of the House when this issue has been raised by numerous Members.