Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Budget 2020: Statements
That is right. There was also the Minister of State, Deputy Canney. There were a number of Ministers of State. I acknowledge and thank the Minister of State, Deputy Moran. If we lock horns and get something out of this, that will be a good thing.
On the health side, I very much welcome the confirmation by the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, that he will make funding available so the 14-bed hospice unit in Castlebar can open next year and provide specialist inpatient palliative care. We do not have an inpatient service in Mayo other than what is randomly given in hospitals. It is a testament to the considerable work the hospice does in the Mayo area that the building itself has been funded by the people of the county. A site was provided by the Department or the HSE. The cost of running it will be met. I warmly welcome that. We will welcome the Minister to the county on 18 October to officially open the unit. That is definitely a good news story. Unfortunately in life there are not too many who have not been touched by the need for hospice services. We are delighted to have the expert service available when it is needed.
I ask the Minister of State, Deputy D’Arcy, to take into account when considering budgets a matter that comes under the heading of the OPW. The OPW must expend a significant amount on the upkeep and maintenance of properties in its ownership or charge. Some of these are shut-down Garda stations or other buildings. The default position with other Departments is that the OPW seems to get such buildings. In Ballina, there is an old, derelict Garda station. It is a listed building. Mayo County Council could use it as a civic space. There are arts organisations interested. There are many things that could be done. Our local Comhaltas is interested. Unfortunately, the OPW wants money for the building. It is already costing it money. Perhaps the Minister of State could take this up with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and the Minister of State, Deputy Moran. Where a realistic proposition is made by a local authority and an organisation is willing to take over a building and do something with it, a peppercorn price rather than the market price might be considered. I am not even saying the OPW is looking for the market price but we are now facing circumstances in which the building in question is to be put on the market for sale. It will be an opportunity lost if the facility in Ballina cannot be secured for the people in the vicinity.
I welcome the extension of the help-to-buy scheme. It is important as part of an effort to address the housing issue. For those who are in a position to get a loan, the scheme can be the difference between affording a house and not being able to afford one. Therefore, it is important.
With regard to the additional provision and the ring-fenced funding for climate change, the carbon tax has been called an ecological tax. I am very clear that Senator Devine is not for the carbon tax but we heard so many experts on both the environmental and finance sides, rather than politicians, talking about where the tax fits into the complement of steps we need to be taking. I agree we have to have alternatives. Now is the time to address this. It is not something that can be put off. The science shows us how real climate change is. We have a responsibility not only to the next generation but also to this one to take action. It means decisions have to be taken that are not so popular so we have to work with the people. It is very easy for people to say they do not want certain taxes. Ultimately, we want to do something and do so in a responsible way. Everyone is going to pay the price if we do not take climate action.