Seanad debates

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein)

At the weekend we heard the Minister for Finance and for Public Expenditure and Reform comment on the national broadband plan. When asked about possible knock-on effects of the spend on the national broadband plan, he rejected any notion that Government plans for tax breaks would be affected. He effectively said, no matter what the cost of the national broadband plan, money would still be found to cut taxes. In other words, we should not worry, the money would be found. That is an extraordinary statement. I call on the Minister for Finance to come to the House to discuss this obsession with tax cutting above all else. Terse answers have been given to the likes of patients waiting for life-saving drugs. Schoolchildren are waiting on the delivery of proper school buildings. Older citizens have had their home care hours slashed in recent years while people are desperately waiting on housing lists, yet the priority, as stated again at the weekend by the Minister for Finance, is tax cuts. The ideological obsession with tax cuts at the expense of everything else is completely at odds with the reality for so many people today in terms of the health and housing crisis.

There is a striking contrast in terms of the experience of the 17,000 SIPTU members in the health service, who will complete a ballot for strike action this week. These people are porters, chefs and support staff who have honoured the Lansdowne Road agreements, who have gone through a job evaluation process and who have been awarded money through that process but are now being snubbed by the Minister for Finance. The Minister sits in breach of his own Lansdowne Road agreement. He cannot find money for those workers, but he will find money for tax cuts. Last night I met childcare workers in Clare, as part of SIPTU’s Big Start campaign. They are people on abysmally low wages who have campaigned for years but the Minister can find no money for them either. What does that tell us about the priorities of Fine Gael in government? They are tax cuts, tax cuts and tax cuts. The health service is in crisis and housing is in the worst crisis of the history of the State, but the Minister can only make one guarantee, namely, regardless of what else happens in the State, he will deliver tax cuts for his wealthy friends. It is high time for a debate on this issue.

I was very struck by the comments of a Fine Gael spokesperson on TV last night on the rent crisis. He said that if it is given time, the rent crisis will work itself out. People who are renting simply do not have time. Every month expensive rental accommodation sees them further away from ever having a home of their own. This evening in the Dáil there will be a debate to enshrine the right to a home into the Constitution. Sinn Féin is proud to take that stance today. I do not wonder what position Fine Gael will take; it will oppose it. Perhaps we need a real debate on the ideological chasm that exists in this Chamber. Fine Gael and its obsession with tax cuts are costing the people of this country far too much.

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