Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Deputy Healy questions the Tánaiste asking “how can the Government justify the introduction of a new regressive water tax to be paid by families that are already at their wits’ end?”

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The policies of successive Governments have allowed an elite golden circle of the rich and powerful in this country to obtain obscene levels of wealth at a time when the vast majority of people have seen their incomes reduced and have been struggling day in, day out to make ends meet. The message from last week’s meeting in Davos and from the Paris School of Economics is that Irish society is becoming more unequal. We are hearing the same message from Oxfam, the Central Statistics Office and the Economic and Social Research Institute. That message is supported by the fact that many of the consultants who recently received substantial payments from Irish Water are the same companies and individuals who were paid for bad advice and bad oversight during the boom. The message is further reinforced by the payment of bonuses, the breach of pay limits for Government advisers and the payment of huge pensions. The list goes on.

In a recent study, the Paris School of Economics showed that the wealthiest 1% of people in Ireland own 10% of national income. Ireland is the seventh worst, in inequality terms, of the 18 countries studied. The figures for accumulated wealth are even more significant and stark. The wealthiest 5% of families in this country own 47% of the wealth. Since this Government came to power, the wealthiest 300 individuals in this country have gained €9 billion, or €30 million each. According to the Central Statistics Office, the incomes of the wealthiest 10% of people in Ireland have increased during the course of the recession, while the incomes of the other 90% of people have decreased. That fall has accelerated as incomes have declined.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
A question, please.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The Economic and Social Research Institute has independently studied the last three budgets and found them to be regressive, which means the budgets have taken the most from those who have the least. Low and middle income families—–

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
This is a time for questions rather than speeches. Will the Deputy put his question?

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I am putting the question now. Low and middle income families have had their incomes undermined. They have been fleeced by increased taxes, such as the unfair household tax. They are struggling to make ends meet.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
I will not ask the Deputy again to put a question rather than making a statement.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
In those circumstances, how can the Government justify the introduction of a new regressive water tax to be paid by families that are already at their wits’ end?

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
Hear, hear.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I share with Deputy Healy a wish to see equity in our society.

Peter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
Then do it.

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
Good man, Peter. Give it some welly.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I want to see fair taxation that ensures those who are in the best position to contribute to the finances of the State do so. The problem is that every time we propose any measures in that regard, Deputy Healy opposes them.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Which ones?

John Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
What has this Government done to address inequality?

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
For example, this Government has introduced a number of measures to increase capital taxation. I refer to taxes like capital gains tax, capital acquisitions tax and deposit interest retention tax. To my recollection, Deputy Healy opposed all of those measures.

Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
The Tánaiste used to oppose water charges at one time.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
When we introduced a property tax, my recollection is that Deputy Healy opposed that as well.

Joan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
The Tánaiste is talking about the family home tax.

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
The home tax.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I am certainly open to hearing from Deputy Healy specific proposals about taxation or other measures that will contribute to greater equity. There is no point coming into the Dáil to bemoan inequality and excessive wealth and then opposing every measure that is introduced to deal with those issues.

Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
That was the reserve of the Labour Party when it was in opposition.

John Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
Did the Labour Party not propose a wealth tax and a financial transactions tax?

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
That is what got it into government for its short stint.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
If one studies the OECD’s examination of our taxation system, one will find that the top 1% of earners in this country, who were mentioned by Deputy Healy, now pay approximately 20% of the income tax. He also referred to the top 5%, who now pay approximately 40% of all the income tax that is paid in this country.

Joan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
That is based on income tax only.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
The OECD now considers the Irish tax system to be one of the most progressive among the countries it covers.

John Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
How did they accumulate that wealth? They did it on the backs of the poor.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
I am open to hearing any specific and worthwhile proposals to improve the current position that Deputy Healy might have.

Dara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
That would be more than the Tánaiste ever proposed when he was in opposition.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
We have heard the usual spin and untruths from the Tánaiste. Of course I have made proposals regarding wealth and asset taxes in this Chamber on numerous occasions.

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
That is right.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)

I have also done so in my budget submissions. The top 1% in this country, and indeed the top 10% in this country, have a completely disproportionate share of national income. The Government has refused to implement a wealth tax or an assets tax.

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
Hear, hear.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The Tánaiste is on record as opposing water charges. I would like to quote something he once said.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
This is not about statements.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
He said “the PAYE taxpayer has already paid enough for local services and should not have to pay again”.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Would you put a supplementary question, please?

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
In 1994, he said that the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party Government had “imposed Residential Property Tax and now they are making us pay for water”.

Anne Ferris (Wicklow, Labour)
That was 20 years ago.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
When water charges were abolished in 1997, he said the Government of the time was right to do that because they were “a form of double taxation”.

Timmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
He was not in the Labour Party then.

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
He could have been in any of three or four parties.

Dara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
He might have been in New Agenda.

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
Or Democratic Left.

Timmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail)
That was before he went away and became an altar boy.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The vast majority of people in this country have been fleeced and crucified over recent years. In those circumstances—–

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Sorry, would you put your question?

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
—–and in light of the possibility of imposing wealth and assets taxes on very rich people in this country, will the Government withdraw the water charges that are proposed to commence in November of this year?

Finian McGrath (Dublin North Central, Independent)
Hear, hear.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
Okay. I will comment on the issue of wealth taxes.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
Is the Tánaiste accepting that I made a proposal in that regard?

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
The Deputy should listen to Tánaiste’s reply, whether he likes it or not.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I am making sure he tells the truth.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
There are three essential forms of wealth: property, pensions, which account for a large part of wealth these days, and money. This Government has introduced additional taxes in each of those three areas of wealth. We have introduced a property tax.

Joan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
It is a family home tax.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
We have introduced additional capital taxes. We have introduced an additional tax on pensions that yield over €60,000 a year. We have also introduced additional taxes on money. The idea of coming in here and saying “let’s tax wealth” is all very well. It is a grand idea.

Tommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
We are talking about net wealth.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
It sounds great and wonderful until—–

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
Until one gets into government.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
—–the Government actually comes to do it. The reality is that when the Government comes to do it—–

Róisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Independent)
It flunks it.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
—–Deputy Healy opposes it every time.

Róisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Independent)
It does not have the bottle for it.

Tommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour)
The Labour Party’s bosses in Fine Gael say “No”.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
Deputy Broughan, please.

Patrick O’Donovan (Limerick, Fine Gael)
The Deputy had his chance but he did not stay around and stand his ground for long enough.

Seán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
We are over time. If Deputies do not want to hear the Tánaiste’s reply, I will just cut off the debate.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
On the issue of water, the Government has decided—–

Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
To make the ordinary people pay.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
—–to make sustainable provision for water services in this country for probably the next quarter of a century or more. That is a prudent thing to do.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The Government has decided to fleece families.

Joan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
People will have to pay for dirty water.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
The previous Government failed to do that. We made it clear in the programme for Government that a charging arrangement based on a metered system, with a free water allowance for households, would be introduced.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
I thought we had free water now.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
We said that charging for water would take place on a metered basis beyond that free allowance.

John Halligan (Waterford, Independent)
We have not even been told what that allowance will be.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
Rather than exaggerating and telling people that this cost will be very excessive—–

Michael Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent)
The Government told lies about the property tax.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Dún Laoghaire, Labour)
—–Deputies should be assured that the Government is on the side of families and households on this issue.

Billy Kelleher (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
The Tánaiste opposed water charges three years ago.

Barry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
He certainly opposed them when he was in the Workers Party, Democratic Left and New Agenda.


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