Dáil debates

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Second Stage


10:00 am

Photo of Rose Conway-WalshRose Conway-Walsh (Mayo, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

We welcome many of the initiatives and many of the things that have been done in the Bill. However, the Minister has not explained why the voucher scheme we proposed was not accepted. It would have been a much better way. I hope the Minister would be mature enough not to dismiss it out of hand just because it was a Sinn Féin proposal. I think it was the best proposal because it gave an immediate boost to people and businesses. The failure to adopt this proposal suggests that the Minister misses the gravity of the financial situation that many families are in. Telling someone that they can reclaim something at the end of 2021 or 2022 misses the immediacy of what is happening here and now. Even with the long duration, I am also concerned that many of the entitlements in terms of rebates are not claimed. Many go unclaimed and many people do not avail of the rebates to which they are already entitled. Will the Minister clarify if the rebates are given for those who choose to take their breaks in the North of our island? If that were not to be the case, it would very much speak to the folly of partition, given that we all live on one small island.

I am also concerned that the Government's plan excludes many low income earners, such as pensioners, parents and students. The employment wage subsidy scheme has excluded those earning less than €151.50. This Government will have been noted to date as the Government of social and economic exclusion. Many pensioners and low income earners will not be able to avail of the money to spend on their breaks, which is fundamentally wrong. One of my colleagues put it well recently when they said they could sit at one table and be able to get a rebate for what they were eating, but that would not be the case for someone else on another table. That is the stark reality. Another example of this type of exclusion is the Government's willingness to enforce travel restrictions on some people. It is a very worrying path to go down.

The Minister should have listened to the hospitality sector and the supply chain because this affects not only the hospitality sector but also everyone who depends on it, such as the dry cleaners and the launderettes. We should have reduced the VAT rate from 13.5% to 9% for a defined period to allow for the income reductions for the whole sector and those dependent on it.

I welcome what the Minister has done with the option for farmers to step out of income averaging. It will help somewhat although there are very serious challenges to the sector and other aspects of that need to be looked at. I think there is an opportunity for the Minister to do the right thing by accepting some of the very constructive Sinn Féin amendments to this Bill.


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