Friday, 18 December 2020
Appropriation Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages
I want to speak on two issues. First, I concur with what everyone has said on several occasions in this Chamber over several years about councillors' pay. I am genuinely puzzled because, in my naïveté, I had assumed this problem would have been dealt with by now. I suppose I have an interest in the Sinn Féin councillors, in particular, because most of them tend to be full-time councillors. The problem we have is that it is almost impossible to live on the salary of a full-time councillor. It is part of the ethos that runs through our party, however.
In the five years I have been here, Senators from all sides have spoken about the need to address this matter. I take Senator Kyne's point that there may be reluctance to do anything for politicians but I would counter that by saying that we all agree on what is required. There is no one in opposition saying the councillors should not be given the money.
I take Senator Casey's point, that is, that this really should have been dealt with in the nine years in which Fine Gael was in government. It had ample opportunity to do something about it. It is inexcusable that nothing was done; let us be clear about that. The damage that was done to local governments by the Fine Gael–Labour Party Government was appalling. I refer to how it took apart many of our local government structures, town councils and so on. However, I do not want to revisit old history, particularly today, other than to make the point that I am genuinely surprised this was not dealt with in the expenditure items for this year. I would like to understand when it will be dealt with. Surely to God we will not have to have this conversation again in 12 months, or even six months. Surely this has to be dealt with sooner. Senator Kyne is correct that the public is under the impression that councillors have received pay increases although no such increases have been made.
My colleague Senator Craughwell has rightly been making the point about the special class K contributions that Senators make. I meant to raise this the other day but I did not get the opportunity. The contribution is absolutely useless to us. This really needs to be addressed as part of an overall review of finance. Solutions have been suggested. Senator Craughwell has been championing this particular issue in the House, again for five years or more. I really hope we will not still be talking about it in 12 months. The whole Chamber agreed something needs to be done because what is occurring is fundamentally unfair. Colleagues from all parties lost their seats in the last Seanad election and find they have no support from social welfare.
I have to raise the Coonagh Cross–Knockalisheen road project in Limerick and the fact that it has had 15 start dates postponed since 2012. The Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, has admitted he is delaying the project for a further review. The project is crucial to the infrastructure of the north side of Limerick. It is a working-class area. The project is crucial to opening up Moyross, in particular. The good people of Moyross have waited for years. They have been disappointed by Government after Government and are at their wits' end. I appeal to the Minister of State to speak to his colleague, the Minister for Transport, because the project must not be delayed continuously. It is an essential part of the Limerick city infrastructure. It is essential to open up the north side, which is the most deprived side of our city. Action and an urgent start are required.