Budget 2018: Sinn Féin criticises allocation to tax cuts

Doherty says budget normalises mass homelessness of young people and children

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

 

The Government’s decision to allocate such a large proportion of available resources to tax cuts showed it did not understand the reality of life for ordinary families, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty told the Dáil.

He said Minister Paschal Donohoe knew it was possible to balance the books while at the same time beginning the process of sorting the crisis in the health services and housing sectors through meaningful investment.

“But what does your version of balancing the books mean for the child who hears their mother locked in the bathroom of their hotel room crying night after night because she feels she is failing her daughter?’’ Mr Doherty asked.

“What does it mean for the parents who have to watch their children suffer in pain because they cannot get access to treatment in our crumbling health services ?’’

He asked how comforting the Minister’s version of “balancing the books” was for the elderly man lying on the hospital trolley.

“These are the realities of your policies, and you are furthering and normalising these policies here today with the help of Fianna Fáil, ’’ said Mr Doherty. “Unfortunately, the only conclusion we can come to, Minister, is that you simply do not get it.’’

He said the budget tolerated and normalised mass homelessness of young people and children. In the midst of the darkest days of the recession in 2012, there were fewer children in homelessness and in poverty than there were today, five years later.There were also fewer people on trolleys and hospital waiting lists in 2012.

Too thin

“The need to be seen to cut taxes means this amounts to too little spread too thin for the services used every day of our lives,’’ said Mr Doherty.

He said the Minister’s entire energy was spent on negotiating tax cuts, and the health, housing and other needs of the population had to do with whatever was left over. “The result will be that in 12 months’ time we will be back here and the previous 11 months will have been taken up with us talking about the state of our waiting lists in health and housing, and Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will wonder why there has been no progress.’’

Mr Doherty said the health budget had been cut and there were no new targets for extra homes to be delivered because €335 million had been allocated for tax cuts. For every euro in tax cuts up to €4 in capital investment was gone.

“It is a shocking use of what limited space we have,’’ he said, adding that the budget “fails the Brexit test because it fails the investment test”.

He said spin and announcements would see off the challenge of Brexit, but a well-planned and ambitious capital plan would provide the boost the economy needed. “This is not a budget fit for a country catching up on infrastructure and with a young, growing population.’’

Infrastructural deficit

He said the State’s infrastructure was creaking after years of an investment drought. “More and more international investors and companies identify this infrastructural deficit as the biggest issue facing the country.’’

Mr Doherty said the budget carried on with very direct discrimination against young jobseekers.

“They are considered less deserving of help from the State than their older siblings. Young civil servants, young teachers, young nurses, young gardaí have to wait for pay equality.’’

He said the “shameless cut to the pensions band and rates’’ in 2012, leaving so many people – mainly women – with less pensions, had not been addressed.