Seanad debates

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

1:30 pm

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Leader's strong commitment to allowing a full, fruitful and, hopefully, constructive debate on the Social Welfare Bill. This shows that these matters deserve our scrutiny and attention and the fact that the Leader has not imposed a guillotine on this legislation will help the debate. I hope colleagues opposite realise clearly over the next few days what they are voting for if that is their intention. They will vote for cuts to maternity benefit, the household benefits package and payments to jobseekers aged under 25. The House has an opportunity to stand up for itself. There will be an opportunity on Committee Stage for Government Senators with some conscience to support some amendments. I look forward to the debate.

While I acknowledge we are dealing with that Bill this week, it would be important for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to come to the House as well to discuss the water shortages and the curtailment of water supplies in the greater Dublin region. We all know the effect this has had on householders and, in particular, on businesses and rate payers in Dublin city. This was an unforeseen incident and I welcome the fact that the Minister saw fit to visit the plant in Ballymore Eustace yesterday but why is he sitting on €141 million in capital expenditure, which is to be used for the capital programme? That money could be put to good use in advance of bringing forward a new water tax to improve the water services infrastructure. I would like an opportunity to ask the Minister about this and about what future contingencies will be put in place to improve the State's water network and not just the network in Dublin.

It was a shame that neither House sat last week. I listened with great interest and occasional incredulity to the confusion arising from the letters issued by Revenue in respect of the local property tax. I remind Members opposite that the legislation introducing the property tax was guillotined by the Government, with only four hours of debate permitted. What was particularly striking last week was that members of the Labour Party, including the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, were hysterical, acting like they had nothing to do with the introduction of this charge. Moreover, the impression was given that the Revenue Commissioners were a completely separate arm of the State, which is not the case.

I support the call by members of the Labour Party for an extension of the deadline for payment. Nobody should be paying a tax in a year in which it is not levied. The confusion arising out of this issue is immense, with people waiting 35, 40 or even 50 minutes to get through to the Revenue helplines.


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