Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Financial Resolutions - Budget Statement 2020
Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
I welcome the opportunity to contribute on this anti-rural budget which has been introduced by Fine Gael and supported by Fianna Fáil. I will start on the issue of tourism by addressing the soft talk in which the Minister engaged today with the tourism industry and the people who work so hard in it.
I come from County Kerry which has the tourism capital of the world and the rest of the county in Killarney. It has been hit more than anywhere else by the increase in VAT from 9% to 13.5% and not one thing in the world has been done to address that issue. It has hurt those involved in tourism iand other industries. I point this out on behalf of the hard-working people concerned, be they in Killarney, Cahersiveen, Killorglin, Kenmare or anywhere else in County Kerry. They are sour tonight that nothing has been done to reduce the VAT rate.
Nothing has been done in the budget for cattle or sheep farmers. In reality, nothing is being done for our fishermen either beyond engaging in a lot of soft talk. Tell it to the fishermen who want to fish in Cromane and are waiting for licences. The Government could do simple things that would not cost anything. There are repairs to be carried out on piers and other infrastructure that are crumbling. The Government cannot see that doing small things would make a difference in rural areas. There are piers falling apart in places such as Rossdohan. We need piers in places such as Cromane, but the Government is doing nothing. Owing to the location of County Kerry, we need funding for coastal protection measures in areas such as Cromane.
The carbon tax is going from €20 to €26 per tonne and we are being told that it will go to €80 by 2030. In honour of good God, is the Government trying to hunt the people out of Ireland completely? Those who will be most adversely hit by the increase are those living in rural areas. It will cripple people. The Minister for Finance even acknowledged that it would affect others disproportionately when he increased the fuel allowance by €2 per week to offset the hurt the carbon tax would cause to certain sectors of the community.
A 6.3% increase in the health budget to €17.4 billion will be made, but it is the mismanagement of the money already available that is wrong. It is not an issue of giving more money but of managing the money provided properly. We cannot open the beds upstairs in Kenmare Community Hospital or those that are needed in Dingle Community Hospital. We need a new hospital in Killarney and Cahersiveen. Tell the patients who are waiting on trolleys for simple procedures in University Hospital Kerry tonight that the Government is making €17.4 billion available to the health service. It cannot manage the money the health service already has available, never mind more. It is a question of management. That is the problem.
The Minister stated we were doing well economically, but I have a message for him. Tell young people who are looking for a house that the economy is strong. Tell it to the young people who are trying to pay a mortgage or for childcare. Tell it to the young couples who are trying to heat and insure their homes. Tell it to farmers who are working so hard and making so little. Tell it to the old people who are afraid to get sick. Tell it to the person who wants to be able to run his or her car, despite the high cost of insurance or fuel which the Government will drive up from midnight. Tell it to the people who are working in the haulage industry and struggling to survive. Tell it to the parents of young people with disabilities whom they are trying to educate and who fall into an abyss once they pass 17 years of age. Tell those parents that the economy is strong. It is not strong for the people I have named.
Simple measures such as providing the necessary coursing licences would save much in rural Ireland. On Sunday evening I attended a meeting of more than 1,000 people from that industry. A simple thing like a Minister having the common sense to issue a licence would save the industry and keep people in employment in which they could make a small amount of money from the sport they enjoy, but no, attack rural Ireland again.
I want more money to be made available to An Roinn Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta for Gaeltacht areas. Previously, there were departmental grants for road improvement works in Gaeltacht areas. We should be taking better care of mná tí. We recently met Conradh na Gaeilge across the road in Buswells Hotel. It set out what was required to protect and enhance the Irish language and culture in Gaeltacht areas. We should see after the people concerned in a proper fashion, instead of paying them lip service.
More houses should be built in rural areas. In the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when there was little money in the country, people built single cottages in rural areas.
We had great people in County Kerry working in our housing service at the time. I refer to a man who was closely associated with ourselves, John O'Donoghue from Farranfore, who was an excellent employee of Kerry County Council and who oversaw the building of many rural cottages. That has all stopped. One cannot get a single rural cottage built now. I want local authorities to build more houses for communities to take care of the people who are on the housing list. Tax incentives should be given to the private sector to modernise derelict properties and bring them back to life. If people are paying 50% tax, it should be reduced to 20% in order that there will be an incentive to take possession of an old property, renovate it, bring it up to modern standards and then rent it out and take more people off the housing lists.
We should call in the banks to help young people to buy properties. We bailed out the banks. They were gone, were bust and were finished and the taxpayers of Ireland bailed them out and now they will not give young people a mortgage. I welcome the living city initiative but I would like to see a rural living initiative.
It is another easy target to hit people who are smoking, who want to smoke and who need to smoke. That is their own business. I would be happier if nobody smoked ever again. That said, if people want to smoke, it is horrible and mean to add 50 cent to the cost of cigarettes because in many cases, they cannot afford them and it is a struggle for people to pay for them.
I welcome the extra gardaí that are being made available but why did the Government close down Garda stations in rural areas in the first instance? In the health area, more home help hours and more home care is needed. I am not happy with what has been proposed here today because it is simply not enough.
Many old age pensioners were really looking forward to getting €5 in the old age pension but they did not get it. They are so disappointed. They are the people for whom we should have nothing but respect because they are the ones who brought us into this world and we want them to be able to enjoy their retirement, which they richly deserve.
Many of the small schools in the county I represent, County Kerry, are struggling. I go to see them on a regular basis. Many schools are inadequate and do not have enough teachers. I studied closely the proposals on schools and I am not happy because they do not go far enough.
The Government starting hyping the over-70s medical card last night. A Minister was sacked one time when he revealed the contents of a budget a couple of days before budget day but now it is the done thing that the entire budget is given out because the Government tries to play the media to its advantage. It did that last night by talking about the over-70s medical card. The over-70s medical card is like the three-card trick; now you see it, now you do not. Even though the means test was increased by a very small amount, when medical conditions are not taken into account, one could be over 70 and be a small little bit over the amount and one will not get the medical card. That is a horrible, mean thing.
We need more infrastructure in County Kerry. We need the Macroom to Ballyvourney bypass to be opened up to allow access to the county. We need the Adare bypass to be completed to allow access to the county. A bypass is also needed for Killarney town to allow the quick and easy movement of traffic from one side of the town to Tralee and Listowel. We also need the Muckross to Lissivigeen inner relief road to be put in place. We need that type of infrastructure in County Kerry because we have to fight in order to survive. It is a constant fight with the Government to try to get it to remember that there is a County Kerry, there is a life outside of the Red Cow roundabout and I hope to God it will eventually wake up to realise that too.