Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Budget 2022: Statements (Resumed)
Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fail)
Go raibh maith agat, Leas Cathaoirleach, agus gabhaim buíochas roimh an t-Aire Stáit, an Teachta Ossian Smyth. Beidh mé críochnaithe i gceann cúig nóiméad.
I will not going to stand here and say that €2 was given here, €5 was given there and €30 was given somewhere else. However, in my view, considering that we are not yet out of Covid-19, this is an extraordinary budget. This view does not just come from me. I rang a number of people in my part of the country last night and this morning to get an independent analysis. The general consensus was that this was a good budget. We still have to deal with Covid-19, which makes the situation more difficult for the Government. The level of spending in the budget and the way the money has been distributed are extraordinary given the times we live in. It is only right that people who need assistance and help get support.
I will deal with a couple of myths or arguments that have been put forward. Everybody is entitled to make an argument. If I were in opposition, I would probably make some of the comments Opposition Senators have made. I respect everybody's comments, and I listen to them. While I might necessarily agree with people, I listen to them. There is a myth that nothing is being done about housing. More than €4 billion in capital funding for housing has been committed in Housing for All. Of this, €2.6 billion will come from the Exchequer and €1.5 billion from the Land Development Agency, LDA, and Housing Finance Agency, HFA. Current funding for housing stands at €1.4 billion. Regardless of where they stand in politics, all fair-minded people will agree that this is a joint step forward in trying to solve what is probably the biggest problem in society at moment.
I am sure everybody, from the top of the Government down to the councillor at local level and members of the public, wants to see housing solved. Nobody in this Chamber, no matter which party he or she represents or in the Dáil, for that matter, is going to fix housing overnight. That is simply not going to happen. More schemes are up and running and within months, we will see small improvements occurring to stabilise the situation of people in rental accommodation and allow people to get their own homes. I firmly and honestly believe that will become a reality for quite a number of people in the coming years because the Government is committed to the area of housing.
On health, the budget for health is more than €22 billion, which is a lot of money. Free GP care will be extended to six and seven year-olds. The drug payment scheme threshold will be lowered to €100. An additional €105 million will be allocated to disability services. An additional €37 million will be provided to fund the expansion of mental health services. I received a note from Ms Fiona Coyle, the CEO of Mental Health Reform, in which she states that the Government commitment to €37 million in budget 2022 recognises the need to address the ongoing mental health pandemic. People in the mental health sector are speaking up and telling us this is what is needed and that it is good.
As Senator Ardagh said, a package of €31 million will be allocated to women’s health. Budget 2022 allocates €8.6 million to the national maternity strategy and an additional €8 million for the National Ambulance Service. These measures will all help people. Like everyone else, I recognise that there are issues with waiting lists. It is in everybody's interest to tackle them.
My time is limited so in the short time left I will refer to agriculture. It is a myth - misinformation - that the budget for agriculture was cut. It was not cut. A sum of €250 million has been secured for the areas of natural constraints, ANC, scheme and €40 million has been secured for the low carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, which will benefit 43,000 farmers. An amount of €40 million has been provided for the beef data genomics programme, BDGP, and a further €40 million for the beef environmental efficiency programme, BEEP. The sheep welfare scheme has been allocated €19 million, an increase of €2 million on last year. An additional €60 million has been provided for organic farming and €80 million is available for the target agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS. It is important to make those points in order that people clearly understand that the budget for agriculture was not cut.