Thursday, 28 November 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I thank the Deputy Leader, Senator Noone, for outlining today's Order of Business. I wish to raise a couple of points, one on the town and village renewal programme. In response to a parliamentary question from Deputy Calleary, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, stated that last year, 224 projects were successful and 66 were unsuccessful. This year,156 projects were successful and 153 were unsuccessful. It is a vastly worse scenario in terms of people getting funding for their programmes right across the country, including all of the areas that are facing by-elections, namely, Dublin, Wexford and Cork. Lots of towns were excluded for various reasons. I do not remember the last time the Minister, Deputy Ring, has been in this Chamber but it is a long time. We have not seen him since we came back in September. It would be useful if we could arrange through the good offices of the Deputy Leader to bring in the Minister, Deputy Ring, to explain the situation. It could be the case that the scheme is so successful that more people are becoming aware of it, more towns are applying and they are applying for more money. I understand that it is a competitive process but people who are going through the process are looking for money for various valid reasons and they are not getting it. It would be useful and interesting to hear from the Minister on that particular point.
In my memory, we have never seen a Government backbencher express her frustration and embarrassment at the state of the health service, as one of our Fine Gael colleagues in the Lower House did recently at an Oireachtas committee. To be fair to her, she made the point that her child may have been less sick than others, but she was embarrassed by the state of the health service. Other people have been making complaints about units in Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown where bloods cannot be tested there and are put in taxis and sent to Temple Street hospital. The blood is congealing on the way. We have reports of a lot of dysfunction going on in the health service. We need to see the Minister in the House. We are not even at the worst of the winter yet and higher numbers than ever are on trolleys in emergency departments. Despite all the money going into the health service it does not seem to be working in the way it should and it is not delivering a service for citizens. We need the Minister, Deputy Harris, to explain to the House how he is trying to get through it. We have a new chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid, whom I knew when he was chief executive of Fingal County Council. I am sure he will do his best but the HSE is an enormous organisation. We know that the money is going into it and it is something we have to worry about.
I am very concerned at the recent report from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, IFAC, outlining that as much as €6 billion of the €10 billion a year in corporation tax is temporary. We have rows over fiscal space of €300 million and €500 million each year in the budget and where we might have €1 billion to play around with if we are lucky. The more we have the better. If we had €20 billion I would be delighted, but we are building foundations, increasing Revenue spending and plugging holes in health in particular with this money. It may only be temporary. I hope it is not, but the IFAC is outlining concerns which I share. Half our corporation tax is coming from ten companies, most likely Apple, Microsoft, Google, Oracle and some of the pharmaceutical companies. For reasons of taxpayer privacy we do not know who they are but we can guess. The IFAC is concerned that the level of Government spending is barely prudent. It is very much teetering on the edge of being prudent at this stage. We need the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, to come to this Chamber. I do not think I have seen him here for a very long time. He usually sends either the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, or the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donovan. I know he is a busy person managing two Departments but this House needs to know what measures he is putting in place to control Government spending, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. These windfall gains are great, but if one wins the lottery one year and one starts to live a lifestyle based on winning the lottery every year, when one stops winning the lottery, one has a problem. I would appreciate it if the Deputy Leader could organise those debates.