Seven views on the budget: ‘I hate the feeling that I may not be able to afford to work’

A house hunter; commuter; single parent; student; pensioner; employer; and parent facing childcare costs give their perspectives

What I want from the budget

House hunters: James Connell (30) from Sligo and his fiancee Sinead O’Brien (32) from Cork rent in Drumcondra, Dublin. They have been trying to buy a home for two to three years. Ms O’Brien works as a medical scientist and Mr Connell is self-employed.

“One thing I think would definitely help homebuyers is a new tax on properties not owned by residents of Ireland. Often properties are bought en masse by non-residents and just left idle. I don’t wanna call it an empty property tax, or investment property tax, but there should be a term for it. If you’re renting it to a family, they should be exempt from the tax,” says Mr Connell.

“There are many build-to-rent units but not build-to-sell units. It doesn’t make sense to me. All the massive complexes are build to rent and they should caveat that at least 50 per cent of those units are build to sell because there’s a lack of actual things to buy. If there were things to buy, it would drive the price down and make it more affordable for everyone.

“The Help to Buy scheme and the First Home Scheme were the worst things the Government could’ve done. All they did was drive house prices up. It’s an extremely supply-constrained market at the moment so as people get access to more money the price of property just rises that much. It doesn’t help buyers. It just gives everyone more credit.


“I hope the Government doesn’t go daft and try to spend its way out of a hole. Handing out more money ... is not going to solve any problems. I’d like to see the Government look at taking both the USC [Universal Social Charge] and the rate of income tax down a bit. The higher rate is absolute theft.”

Pensioner: Michelle Whelan (68), Togher, Cork.

“I’m lucky in that I never had a huge break in my PRSI payments. I have a small English pension and I take in students. Whether I’d be able to live solely on the State pension is something that so far, thank God, I haven’t had to find out.

“Obviously people do live on it. But the pension should be tied in with inflation and the minimum income. What I think is not fair about our system of social welfare payments is that a lot of them are not means-tested. I think every payment should be means-tested. I look at people I know and they can tell you quite happily what they have in the bank, how much their house is worth and they’re still getting the same pension as the rest of us.

“The electricity top-up went out to everyone. That made me and an awful lot of people very cross. As for the €600 payment that’s planned, that will help me. I do think the Government is trying to work through this but where is the money coming from?

“We really need to think about a wealth tax. We should also be looking at the taxes paid by multinationals.

“My 37-year-old son and his fiancee are on fairly decent salaries but can’t afford rent in Dublin. They’re living with her parents and are going to move to Portugal where the rent is a lot less than here.

“The thing everyone of us is guilty about is the lack of international aid from this country. Instead of being 0.7 per cent of GNP, which we committed to, it’s 0.3 per cent ... It’s disgraceful that there are children dying because of the lack of clean water. You hear the Irish are so generous but as a State, we are totally falling behind on our responsibilities and duty of care.”

Commuter: Mark Shanley (29) is a medical social worker, living in Mullingar but originally from Killashee, Co Longford, and works in the Mater hospital, Dublin

“It would be great if they continue the current reduction in public transport fares. I was reading they were looking to reduce fares further. That will encourage more people like myself to weigh up their circumstances because a big part of why I moved job from Naas General Hospital to the Mater was to avail of public transport.

“I’m very much in support of the 30 per cent income tax bracket. I think there could still be more room for maybe more tax brackets to support people to move further in their careers.

“More support is needed for disability services. The waiting time down the country and even in Dublin is 18 years, so for someone that is a child, they won’t even get a service a lot of times. Also, there needs to be more support for those who work in the home support sector. Like, they don’t even get fuel costs to go from house to house to support elderly people that live at home. The mental health services is another area that requires much more support.

“The proposed introduction of the carbon emissions tax is a difficult one — you have to try to balance the concerns for the environment versus being realistic regarding people’s situations, particularly in rural areas. I think that assistance with paying for heating and the ESB is also needed by many.”

Single parent: Tracy Hayde (38), Thurles, Co Tipperary

An increase in child benefit and an allowance towards energy costs would be “a godsend” for Hayde, who “often goes without food” so that her daughter, eight-year-old Ruby, has enough to eat.

“There are some weeks where I have €10 left or some weeks where I have no money left for food and I have to go to [a food bank] to get food for lunches for my daughter for school.”

Unable to work a 9am to 5pm job due to ill-health and expensive childcare costs, she receives a weekly Jobseekers’ transitional payment of €248, an annual back-to-school allowance recently increased from €160 to €260, a monthly €140 children’s allowance payment and she pays €25.90 on her weekly rent as a Rental Accommodation Scheme tenant.

“What I’m hoping for is that they will give an extra €10 on top of social welfare and add on to the fuel allowance. I’m doing a bookkeeping course so I hope to be able to get work out of that.

“They need to tackle the energy crisis. Last year I would have paid €80 every two months, which increased at the beginning of this year to €100. And my last bill was €120 … I’m dreading this month’s bill because of all the increases recently. I don’t have running hot water so I have to boil the kettle to wash dishes. I’m looking for the budget to help me get through this [crisis] because I am constantly worrying about money.

“I’m looking for the Government to bring my money up somewhere over €300 per week, because by the time I have everything paid, what I have is not enough.

“I don’t even have a decent coat to wear for the current weather we are having, none of my coats are waterproof.”

Employer: Kate O’Leary, manager of the Laurels Pub and Restaurant, Killarney, Co Kerry

“Retaining the VAT rate at 9 per cent is a huge issue for the whole hospitality sector. Excise on wine and beer is a serious factor too. We have the second highest excise rates in Europe for beer and the third highest for wine.

“Sustainable energy/SEAI grants for businesses are being abolished and that is impacting us. Food prices have hugely increased and staff costs have gone through the roof. We can’t possibly absorb everything.

“We had marvellous support throughout Covid. For publicans in particular the biggest concern now is keeping the doors open. Some premises are closing a number of nights a week. We have stopped Sunday lunch because of being unable to fill the roster and trying to reduce costs. This is unprecedented.

“I have been working in the Laurels since I was 13 years of age and I have never seen business so hard.

“Help for small operators with recruitment is essential. This is my own view — I am not a spokesperson for publicans.

“We need incentives for people to go back to work full-time and part-time. It is the same for other sectors — they are finding it difficult to get people to work five days a week.”

Student: Ciarán Freeman, final-year nursing student at University of Galway on work placement at University Hospital Galway

“I am hoping that in the budget the Government puts its money where its mouth is and delivers what it has promised in the past for student nurses and midwives and for all professions in the health service in general. From a purely student perspective, we are in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis and we work full-time in placements in the public health service but have to work in other jobs at weekends just to make ends meet.

“Student nurses are working as care workers, and in hospitality in cafes and bars, or as babysitters to try and pay the bills.

“We had a review last year of our allowances which are capped at €50 a week and the Minister for Health committed to upgrading the system, but that promise has fallen down the side.

“Many students are not receiving any allowance. And the €100 a week paid to student nurses during the pandemic has stopped since the end of August/beginning of September. I think they have decided the pandemic is over.

“I am not saying the problems of other students are any less than nursing students, but we are working 39 hours a week in the hospital. That is stressful especially with hospital overcrowding being as it is.

“Rent is an issue, just as any issue that hits the general population also affects student nurses. Student nurses can only afford sub-par accommodation and they are still paying an arm and a leg for it.”

Parent facing childcare costs: Sinéad Hingston, Kilternan, Co Dublin, mother of Lily (10), Dylan (4) and Alby (nine months)

“If the Government doesn’t come out with something really good during this budget on childcare costs there’s going to be a lot of unhappy families. They need to do something very big to show they are listening,” says Hingston.

Living in Kilternan, Co Dublin, with her husband and three children, she is “job -hunting” as she comes to the end of maternity leave. She worked in finance, and as a self-employed photographer, but fears going back to work may not add up.

“For the two youngest, childcare is going to cost us €2,000 a month at least. My mum helps a lot — she picks up Lily from school but if mum isn’t around we have to find after-school care for Lily as well.

“So myself and my husband are sitting down trying to figure out if it’s worth my while going back to work, but then we can’t really afford me not working either.”

She would like to see a cap on childcare costs, per child and for childcare to be funded as “an essential public service [and] part of the education system”.

“I hate the feeling that I may not be able to afford to work. The system is broken. It doesn’t even make any sense.”