Thursday, 22 September 2022
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Richard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
Nearly 100 years ago, Ireland's national poet, W.B. Yeats, wrote that this was no country for old men. If he was writing today in the face of a cost-of-living and housing disaster, he might well write that this is no country for older people, younger people, working people, people with disabilities or the vulnerable. It is a country for profit-hungry energy companies, big corporations and property vultures - for the greedy and obscenely wealthy. I think it is that sense that is going to lead thousands of people out onto the streets this Saturday to assemble at Parnell Square and march to this Dáil before the budget to demand relief and protection from the cost-of-living and housing disaster that people are suffering. The older people might be there because any pensioner, or for that matter any person on disability, who is solely dependent on State payments lives below what the Central Statistics Office, CSO, says is the minimum weekly disposable income necessary not to live in poverty.
Let us think about that. The vast majority of people who get State pensions or disability payments in this country, and students who receive student grants, live below the rate that is officially believed to be necessary not to be living in poverty. That is the situation faced by our older people, younger people and vulnerable people.
I spoke to students in UCD yesterday. They all said they intend to leave the country because they feel they have no choice. They said they do not want to go but they can never hope to own their own homes. They simply cannot afford the rents. They do not want to face a future of uncertainty or pay the extortionate cost of rental properties where they have no security.
Workers have seen the real value of their wages drop by €4,000 or €5,000 in the past year and a half. Section 39 workers who look after people with disabilities and vulnerable people have been forced out on strike because they have not received pay restoration. Meanwhile, corporate profits have tripled in the past ten years. The profits of real estate investment trusts, REITs, have tripled in the past four or five years. The wealth of the very richest in this country is growing exponentially. What has the Tánaiste to say to those who are coming out onto the streets to assure them this will be a country for young people, old people, working people and vulnerable people after the budget?