Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Financial Resolutions - Budget Statement 2020
I am pleased to get the opportunity to speak on the budget. I got a clear message from 1,000 people on the budget and the economy of Kerry at Limerick racecourse last Sunday evening. It was to ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, to sign the hare coursing licence on which so many people in the south of the country, especially Kerry, Limerick and parts of Cork, depend. I ask the Government to sign the licence, which will cost it nothing. If it is not signed this week, it will be too late.
We already had a carbon tax, which the Government has now increased. It is very clear that, by and large, this tax will have to be paid by the people of rural Ireland, such as the people of Kerry whom I represent. One cannot travel anywhere in County Kerry without a car. We have very little public transport. I have a message for another Minister, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, on the one bit of public transport that we have. The ticket office in the bus station in Killarney is closed and people have nowhere to stand in out of the rain when waiting for a bus. There is no information centre now. There was a little shop but the woman who ran it retired last Saturday. The people of Killarney and visitors to the town no longer have a ticket office and they must get their ticket on the bus. That is totally unsatisfactory. I call on the Minister to wake up and to address the problem tomorrow and not the day after.
We were told the carbon tax would be ring-fenced to help low-income people and to insulate their homes to improve energy efficiency. Now we are learning what the carbon tax is for. I do not begrudge the people of the midlands fair play or jobs but it is clear that this is to make up for the loss of jobs in Bord na Móna and the closure of the valuable power plants. They should not have been closed until the Government had something to replace them. We have been waiting for the Government to introduce a policy for solar energy farms. Many people have planning permission but there is no infrastructure in place to allow them to connect to the grid. Neither has any provision been made to pay people if they provide alternative energy. Other countries have hydroelectric schemes to provide electricity. We could utilise many of the streams and rivers in the country but the Government will not let us clear the rivers as it is. The question is where are we going.
It is a fact that a diesel car is the most efficient and dependable one in which to travel. The Minister referred to providing more charging points and infrastructure around the country, but even if there are enough charging points, we will not have enough electricity because the Government is closing down the power plants and not making up the deficit in any real way. The people of rural Ireland especially will have to carry on in the meantime. They will have to go to work, take their children to school and do all the normal things and they need a reliable car. The suggestion that people should park all the diesel cars at this point and get electric cars is not on and is not workable at present.
No recognition is given to the people who get up early in the morning. There was much talk about those who eat their dinner in the middle of the day. Many of them now do not have the time to eat any dinner but they must pay 52% tax. That is hurting many people. Many young people are complaining that there is no incentive to work hard as they are then asked to pay 52% tax. No recognition is given to those people in the budget.
When it comes to health, more people than ever are on trolleys. As Deputy Michael Healy-Rae said, we have hospitals in Kerry that are only half open. They include the hospitals in Kenmare and Dingle, while at the same time there are numerous people in beds and on trolleys, waiting to get a bed, in University Hospital Kerry in Tralee, yet no attempt is being made to fully open those hospitals. I have been asking for that since I came here four years ago and Deputy Michael Healy-Rae had being asking for it prior to that.
As for home help, it is an absolute disgrace that people who served this country well and got us to where we are face such difficulties with accessing home help. People have been waiting since last May for home help hours. That is a shame and a downright disgrace. The members of this Government should hang their heads in shame for allowing that to happen. People have waiting for the chance to avail of the fair deal scheme so that they can progress to nursing homes. The Minister is really good at doing things that we do not want. To give one example, druggies have to be caught a third time before being arrested. The Minister initiated that policy and he ordered it on the spot while we were on holidays. That was no bother to him. It is a shame. The situation would be worse without the buses we take to Belfast. We have taken almost 1,000 people there now and the story is to go to Belfast or go blind. It is a bad reflection. One of the first men I took up to Belfast two years ago had been waiting for seven years. That man's grandfather had his cataracts removed in the hospital in Tralee in 1968.
Turning to social welfare, there has been no rise for old age pensioners. Again, those are the very people who got us where we are today. Everything else, such as fuel, is going up in price. It has been stated that the price of home heating oil will not be affected until May 2020. The old-age pensioners, however, are not going to get the €5 rise in their pensions to which so many of them had been looking forward. They depend on it greatly as they do not have any other income. They are very protective of the pension and many of them will be very hurt at the lack of an increase in the payment. I welcome the increase in the income qualification cap for medical cards for those aged over 70. Another group of pensioners, however, also qualify for that payment at the age of 66. Many of those people, up to the age of 70, do get sick unfortunately and they need a medical card as well. The income threshold for that group has not risen at all. It is unfair that those people who worked so hard will not qualify for a medical card. I also requested one other small thing several times, which is that when a medical card is granted, it should be effective from the date of application. That is not happening. I am asking for that measure because many people in rural Ireland do not make any provision for their health until they actually get sick.
Turning to agriculture, after all that has happened and all the protests, there has been no recognition of the problems of the suckler and beef farmers. At present, they are not even covering their costs. The increase in the diesel price will hurt them even more. The increase in the stamp duty is also a shame. IBEC has been telling us that we have the lowest level of capital infrastructural projects. Access into our county of Kerry is strangled because of the delay with the Macroom-Ballyvourney bypass, as well as the Killarney bypass. We need those projects to keep the movement-----