Working in the Community, Working for the Community

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
This Finance Bill, the budget and general Government policy is based on spin, hype and, indeed, the Government’s lie that this country is broke.

Michael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
The Deputy cannot use that word. Please withdraw it now.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
If the Government does not like that word, let us call it something else.

Peter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
Untrue.

Michael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
It is not allowed under standing orders.

Peter Mathews (Dublin South, Independent)
Use the French word mensonge.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
It is completely untrue that this country is broke.

Michael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
I take it that the Deputy is withdrawing that.

Séamus Healy (Tipperary South, Independent)
The policies that follow from that and which are being implemented by this Government mean continued austerity for ordinary people. They mean continued austerity for low and middle-income families whom this Government are forcing to pay for a recession that they had no hand, act nor part in creating. The water charge is one of those austerity taxes, but ordinary people are now saying that they have had enough. It is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The policies in the budget and in the Finance Bill ensure that the gap between rich and poor has increased. The policies mean that the super-rich get off scot free and will not even be asked to pay their fair share of taxation. In recent days, the Minister’s press officer boasted in the newspapers that anyone earning over €100,000 a year will get €747 from this budget. That is nearly €15 per week, while the lowest earners get 90 cent per week. Low and middle-income families will face more austerity, while the very wealthy get support and are not asked to pay for anything.

We have high unemployment levels while there are over 100,000 on the housing waiting lists and there is a huge mortgage crisis. Irish children have fallen further and faster into poverty than in any other OECD country. It is shameful that 28.6% of Irish children currently live in poverty.

We also have high emigration, including 84,000 graduates who have left this country in recent years. They are now contributing to economies in Canada, Australia and elsewhere. Ordinary people know that our health and education services have been devastated.

This country is not broke, however. All objective, independent analysis agrees that this is a very wealthy country indeed. Of course, the wealth is skewed in favour of wealthy people to such an extent that the poorest 10% pay more as a percentage of their income in tax than the wealthiest 10%. That is another absolutely shameful situation.
About 12 months ago in this Chamber, the former Minister of State, Deputy Joe Costello, told us that this was the eighth richest country in the world. That fact has been supported by objective analysis. We know, for instance, that the gross domestic product here per head of population is greater than in Germany, France or the United Kingdom.

That finding has been supported by Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation in recent times. The German study shows that, despite being one of the richest countries in the EU, Ireland’s rating for distribution of wealth is 18th, in the bottom third of the 28 EU countries, along with Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Latvia. As a result of the study, the foundation also cited Ireland as an example of how high GDP per capita did not translate automatically into social justice for the population. Ireland has a GDP around as high as Sweden’s, but ranks considerably below average when it comes to social justice and is one of the biggest losers in country comparisons. This country is very wealthy, but the wealth is in the hands of a very small percentage of the population that is not being asked to pay its fair share. Less than 12 months ago, the Minister for Finance told me that the top 10,000 income earners in the country earn €595,000 each per year. From the rich list published in the Sunday Independent by Nick Webb, we know the 300 wealthiest people in the country have increased their assets and income from €50 billion in 2010 to €62 billion, an increase of €12 billion. We know the financial assets of the wealthy are now at the level of the Celtic tiger era, at €324 billion.

It is time the Government made very wealthy people pay their fair share. I am talking about seriously wealthy people, not the ordinary individual with a redundancy payment or a retirement lump sum or who bought a house for retirement. I am talking about people with huge amounts of money, hundreds of millions or billions of euro each. They are not even asked to pay a wealth tax, which is one of the things the Government should do. It should introduce a wealth tax for very wealthy people, but I can see the Minister throwing his hands up in the air, as do the media and the establishment when people suggest it. We should remember there are six countries in the EU with a wealth tax. A wealth tax was introduced in this country by a former colleague of the Minister, Richie Ryan, but it was abolished by Fianna Fáil to suit its backers. A wealth tax is essential. Even a very small wealth tax would provide significant income, billions of euros, to address the issues of water, health and education services.


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