Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

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


5:05 pm

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

The Bill that the Government has brought forward has been widely commended by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, the Central Bank of Ireland, the European Commission, the OECD and a list of ratings agencies and other independent experts, both domestic and international.

I agree with Deputy Doherty about the risk of using windfall corporate tax receipts inappropriately. We will not do that. It is appropriate to spend some of those receipts now. We are providing for that by enhancing the national development plan by adding €2.25 billion over the coming years for housing, transport infrastructure, investment in education, healthcare and renewable energy, to name a few examples. We must also provide for the future because we would be in a vulnerable position were we, as a Government and a State, not to recognise the risks that are there given the inherent volatility and vulnerability in our corporation tax receipts, from which we are now collecting about €24 billion a year. That was €4 billion a decade ago.

An alarm bell is ringing and we must take heed of it and take on board all of the expert advice that we are getting in that respect. That is why we are setting up two new funds: one is to provide for the future, but not the long-distant future 30 or 40 years away. The demographics will not look after themselves. These are costs that are coming very quickly in the years ahead. I refer to the cost of an ageing population, healthcare, home care and decarbonisation. Those costs must be met. If we do not face up to our responsibilities now, this generation and those who come after us will not thank us because they will be paying far more in the future and future governments will face very difficult decisions to meet those costs.

Second, there is a need to learn the lessons of the past and the boom-bust approach to public capital investment. If we encounter a shock or we have another downturn, which we inevitably will, if we do not set up these funds the response will be to slam the brakes on public spending when it comes to infrastructure. It is the last thing a government should do. When the economy is weak we should invest through the economic cycle, lean against the wind, invest in housing, transport and all of the infrastructure we need. That is what the second fund does. We will be glad of that fund at some point in the future. I commend the Bill to the House. I hope it will receive strong support from across the House. I look forward to bringing it to Seanad Éireann next week.


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