Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Future Ireland Fund and Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund Bill 2024: Report and Final Stages


3:20 pm

Photo of Pearse DohertyPearse Doherty (Donegal, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Deputy Nash outlined the substance of his amendment. My amendment is very similar. It relates to the investment strategy under the Future Ireland Fund and would provide a focus for the investment strategy with respect to the Future Ireland Fund towards domestic investment in the State. As I outlined on Committee Stage and Second Stage, I believe the establishment of funds is appropriate. However, I have serious concerns regarding this legislation, as it is far too rigid and provides stipulations regarding the level of investment without due regard to other factor in the economy, particularly with respect to housing, which has been an abject failure under this Government. For that reason, we have not been able to support this legislation because the Government has not accepted any of the proposals we put forward on Committee Stage.

Reverting to the Future Ireland Fund and the investment strategy, at present the only specification under the investment strategy is that moneys may be invested inside or outside the State. As we are all too aware, the State is suffering from a chronic housing shortage as well as infrastructure deficits. These deficits are now posing a real and significant threat to the competitiveness of our economy and the living standards of our people. There is a risk that money allocated to this fund will be predominantly invested abroad in search of higher interest yields but with a massive opportunity cost to the State. There is an opportunity available to invest this money here in critical infrastructure and in less economically-developed regions, such as my region of the north west. There is an opportunity to invest in our offshore wind capacity, a national priority that cannot be wasted, providing the potential for us to secure energy independence, create jobs and build shared national wealth. There is also an opportunity to invest in affordable housing in our communities and the infrastructure around it that is critical to pulling the State out of the crisis it has been plunged into by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and by the policies that both of those parties have developed over the last number of years.

Under this Bill, the Government legislates for annual contributions to the fund that will grow to €5.4 billion by 2030, with an additional €2 billion being invested in that year in the infrastructure, climate and nature fund. We are, therefore, talking about contributions of approximately €7.4 billion by 2030. It would be a missed opportunity for other jurisdictions to benefit from investments under this fund while the State continues to face significant challenges in the areas of housing and infrastructure. These challenges are holding back the economy and our people. Instead of creating a fund that will focus its investments abroad, the Government should use the windfall corporation tax receipts to create a fund that will focus investment on infrastructure here in Ireland, one that will give a return to the fund itself. Crucially, the fund should not be structured in a way such that the transfer of money to it will take priority over other pressing issues in society, such as the infrastructure and housing deficits. That goes to the core of our opposition to the Bill drafted by the Minister.

The idea of using the windfall corporation tax receipts to create a fund that will focus investments into infrastructure here in Ireland is not a view shared only by Sinn Féin and some other parties in opposition. It is also shared by organisations like the Nevin Economic Research Institute, NERI, and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC. Under the stewardship of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Governments, our housing crisis has reached diabolical and mammoth proportions. Today, we see another indicator of the failure of this Government, if one were ever wanted, although I am sure many Government members are popping champagne in Government Buildings as they see house prices increasing by another 7%. Looking at the track record of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in Government and their diabolical policies on housing, we can only surmise that their ambition is to get the results they are getting. They are pushing up house prices beyond the reach of ordinary families and workers, pushing up rents beyond the reach of people who are struggling to pay their rent and putting social housing beyond the reach of many. The lived experience of 14,000 people who are in emergency accommodation testifies to that.

The Government has secured its objective - if we want to call it that - by seeing another massive increase in house prices, this time by 7%. Is it any wonder that so many people have decided that this country is not for them as they no longer have hope in it and have packed their bags and found new homes in Australia, Canada and elsewhere? That speaks to the core of this legislation. The Government, in this Bill, is so out of touch with our housing and infrastructure needs that it sacrifices those needs because under this Bill, the fund may be invested outside the country. We tabled a reasonable amendment that would direct the strategy of investment to pay attention to the needs of this State but the Government voted against it, and I am sure it will do the same again.

Over the years, I have asked how bad it needs to get before the penny drops for the Government. If we take housing, the average price of a house in the State is €333,000 and it is €446,000 in the Dublin region. Governments go into huddles, slap themselves on the back and say “Good on yourself” and “Fair play”, that they are doing the right thing and that it is working. It is not working. To pay €460,000 for a house in Dublin is not working for anybody who is working in Tesco or for any teacher or any garda who is on the beat. This Government is not working for them; it has failed them. This legislation again underpins that failure and the fact that the Government is so out of touch on housing. The impact of its policies over the last number of years is crippling a section of Irish society and it has forced others to give up hope of having a home in the country of their birth.

This is a sensible amendment. It would ensure that the investment fund that would be established would at least be focused on resolving the growing housing and infrastructure deficits our people and economy face. It is about boosting productive capacity in our economy and contributing to building the economy and a society that works for all. Do I think the Government will support the amendment? Based on its track record, I would be surprised if it supported it.


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