Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General (Resumed)


2:45 pm

Photo of Jackie CahillJackie Cahill (Tipperary, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

As a Government Deputy, I am proud to be associated with this budget. We have been lobbied a lot over the past couple of months. We have been in an unprecedented crisis given the war in Ukraine. We have made a very serious attempt at addressing the cost-of-living increases for those under the most pressure. At times in politics, we receive a lot of criticism and many issues are raised with us, but since Tuesday we have received many calls from people saying they are delighted with this budget. There has been a serious attempt made to address the cost-of-living crisis people are facing. I am delighted to be a Government Deputy who has lobbied our Ministers for a progressive budget like this. An unprecedented €11 billion has been put into the economy to address the cost-of-living crisis facing us. It really justifies the reasons why we went into government two and a half years ago.

There are two things I would like to see in the Finance Bill. I would like to raise them with the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, and then move on to aspects of the budget. The first concerns the means test for the carer’s allowance for parents with incapacitated children. This is a matter I raised in the Dáil a couple of weeks ago. I have a family in my constituency who have been put in financial hardship by the conditions of qualification for the scheme. Since the father of the family got a bonus in his employment this year, the mother’s carer’s allowance has been reduced to less than €50 per week. The couple have a child with serious health needs – a child who cannot talk, walk or swallow. The child was not expected to live beyond 18 months or two years, but, due to the excellent care she has received in her home, she received her first Holy Communion this year. There are not too many of these children in the State. I urge the Minister to remove the means test to qualify for the full carer’s allowance through the Finance Bill. There is a precedent for this. People can qualify for a medical card and the domiciliary care allowance without a means test. Since the number of families in the circumstances I describe is extremely small, I urge the Minister to reconsider this matter through the Finance Bill. For a family with a child in need of care 24-7 and a mother who gave up an extremely good job to look after that child and who is doing so exceptionally well, I urge the Minister to reconsider the matter in the Finance Bill.

The second issue I wish to raise, on which I have been quoted in the media today, is that of the concrete levy. I fully accept the concept of the levy and of recovering money from the industry for mica and pyrite remediation. We now see apartment buildings in Dublin with defects. The bill will continue to grow but the levy needs to be postponed for a period until the cost of concrete returns to a level such as the one that obtained before the war in Ukraine. The price of concrete has risen by 50% in recent months. Next April is just not the time to impose a 10% levy on concrete products. We all want to see the maximum number of houses built and to control the price of houses. I was talking to a concrete provider yesterday who said the levy will add €120 to the cost of each load of ready-mixed concrete. While I fully accept the principle of a levy on concrete and that such a levy has to be imposed, I urge the Government to postpone it until a date later than April 2023 to allow costs to come back into line.

The Minister for Finance gave the example of what a pensioner living alone and in receipt of the fuel allowance will gain from budget 2023. He said it will total €2,374. In my lifetime, I have never seen such a huge increase for people on social welfare. The cost of living and cost of fuel will be enormous this winter, but this is a huge step in alleviating fuel poverty.

The double weekly payment, the Christmas bonus, a once-off fuel allowance payment and living-alone payment, as well as a weekly increase that is permanent, and the three €200 energy credits are a major attempt by this Government to ensure that people stay out of fuel poverty this winter.

We have been inundated with calls from constituents who recognise the unprecedented effort that has been made in this budget. A working family with kids in school or college will gain a total of €5,640 from this budget. That underlines the massive effort being made by the Government to ensure that the impact of the cost of living on families will be neutralised. This shows that the Government is fully getting to grips with the crisis facing the economy and has made a major effort to ensure that families will not be in fuel or food poverty this winter.

Another area this budget addresses, and one which I had pushed for, is a separate targeted agriculture modernisation scheme, TAMS, budget for climate negation measures. As a farmer, I am fed up with being told what we cannot do. At all the forums I have attended I have always stressed that my industry, the agrifood industry, wants to concentrate on producing food sustainably. I judge all climate negation measures by the fact that if they do not impact on our ability to produce food sustainably in this country, then they will be successful. If they impact on our ability to produce food, then they will have failed. This separate budget that has been introduced for TAMS is directed at putting in place solar panels on farm buildings at the moment. I urge that be brought further to include constant aeration of slurry, rubbers on slats, different fertilisers that involve significantly less run-off and production of organic, pelleted fertiliser. There are many things that can be done within the agrifood sector to reduce emissions and meet our emissions targets.

In regard to the €90 million that has been put into this separate TAMS budget relates to a point I made very strongly to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine about the fact that we have a TAMS budget for infrastructure and that we needed a separate TAMS budget to tackle climate change. I am delighted that this has been recognised in the budget. It is a huge step forward in our task to meet the 25% emissions reduction target that was agreed a couple of months ago. We can build on this and drive forward. A further €3 million is being allocated over the next four years to kick-start farm-based anaerobic digestion. This is hugely welcome. A great deal of technology exists. Farmers around Europe are ahead of us in this regard. Animals on farms throughout Europe typically produce an income. They also produce an energy income. They are a valuable source of income. We can go a long way towards our renewable energy targets inside the farm gate. I am delighted to see these initiatives in the budget. I have worked hard in the parliamentary party to push this agenda and thankfully I got a receptive response. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and now the money has been put in place. We have to continue to build on that.

Yesterday evening, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine visited Lisheen in my constituency visiting the bioeconomy research centre. The technology being produced there is a vehicle that can be used to produce modern technology to allow us to meet our targets in agriculture going forward. We have already seen one project emerging from the research centre where used plastic is turned into a wax in the former Bord na Móna plant in Littleton where used plastic is turned into a valuable commodity that can be used to make glue and for other purposes in the future. That is where we have to go but it can only be done with investment. I am delighted to see that investment in the constituency of Tipperary in this budget. With this kind of investment and these types of initiatives, we will be able to go a long way towards meeting our 25% emissions reduction target. It had to be in budget 2023. In the past we were slow off the mark on such investment but we now have a separate budget for it. While there are many positive things in this budget this initiative on how the agrifood industry will meet its climate change targets is most welcome. I am delighted to be associated with this budget.


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