The most consistent and angriest complaint on the door steps is of broken promises and the resultant targeting of those on low and middle incomes for cuts and new taxes.
When considering promises and announcements by Labour and Fine Gael in this General Election Campaign, voters are considering what happened to the promises they made in the last General Election Campaign.
The Public have been pointing out to me the litany of broken promises which include:
St. Michael’s Unit.
At a local level, Labour Leader Eamonn Gilmore, promised to protect South Tipperary General Hospital. Labour Minister, Kathleen Lynch, in government, closed down St Michael’s Psychiatric Unit in Clonmel and transferred it to Kilkenny.
We will “end the scandal of Hospital Trolleys” said Enda Kenny. The result is Trolley Chaos in our Emergency Departments, the closure of 2,000 hospital beds, the loss of 11,000 health staff and the loss of 2 million home help hours.
Through the 2011 General Election TESCO AD and in its election manifesto, The Labour Party promised to prevent the introduction of domestic water tax. In government they agreed to introduce this tax and Minister Alan Kelly is now implementing it.
In the 2011 General Election Tesco AD, the Labour Party said it would prevent Fine Gael reducing Child Benefit. Labour leader Joan Burton, in government, did the opposite and cut Child Benefit.
FAMILY HOME TAX
Fine Gael Leader, Enda Kenny, said “ It Is Morally Wrong, Unjust and Unfair to Tax a Person’s Home”. But in Government, he introduced this unfair tax.
Speaking in the Dáil on 18th April 2012, Minister Joan Burton said she would only proceed with plans to reform the One Parent Family Payment by 2014/15 if she got a “credible and bankable commitment” by the time of Budget 2013 that the Irish Government would put in place “a system of safe, affordable and accessible child care, similar to what is found in the Scandinavian countries to whose systems of social protection we aspire”.
Minister Burton went ahead with the changes without any such child care system being in place.
Enda Kenny promised to increase the Garda Force by 2,000 Gardaí. The result was 2,000 less Gardaí, 130 Garda Station closed and increased levels of rural crime.
Then there was the Labour Manifesto promise to invest in ending fuel poverty which causes unnecessary deaths of older people every winter. “However, Labour will also take immediate action to alleviate the risk of fuel poverty in the short term by reinvesting €40 million from the
carbon tax to alleviate fuel poverty, and by developing a national fuel
poverty strategy as set out in Labour’s Fuel Poverty and Energy
Conservation Bill.” Labour Party Manifesto 2011.
Instead, the heating allowances were cut by the Labour Leader
The Public are fed up of broken promises. They are taking the recent spate of promises from all the political parties with a large dose of salt.
The Door Steps say Don’t Believe Them and Don’t Let It Happen Again!
Seamus Healy TD
Tel : 087-2802199
Posted by Workers and Unemployed Action Group in Age Action Ireland, Ambulance Service, Carers Association, Cuts, Elder Abuse, Evictions, Health, Housing, Irish Water, Jobs, Medical Cards, Mental Health Services, Right2Water, Social Welfare, Statement
“For the second year in a row this Government has introduced a Budget that is deeply regressive, both socially and economically … Socially it hits people on low incomes, including the working poor, more than it hits the better off.
That is the result of the Government, the Labour Party in particular, reneging on the commitments given in the programme for Government and during the 2011 general election. One of the most blatant examples is the cut in child benefit. During the 2011 general election the Labour Party took out Tesco-like advertisements and at every door its candidates told voters that Fine Gael wanted to cut child benefit.”
Minister Howlin Refuses to Tax the 10,000 on 595,000 Per annum
Deputy Seamus Healy: The Minister has been inviting us to consider outcomes. Maybe we should examine some of the outcomes of the social and economic policy of this Government. The gap between rich and poor in Ireland is now four times the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, average. Incomes in the average Irish household have fallen by 50% and low income households lost a greater proportion of their income than the better off. The number of those in poverty has risen and the level of the poverty has deepened.
That is the view expressed recently by the OECD which confirmed the ESRI’s finding that budget 2014 had had the greatest impact on low income groups, the incomes of which had declined by 2%, and supported the claim by Social Justice Ireland that budget 2013 had been unjust and regressive. Social Justice Ireland stated:
For the second year in a row this Government has introduced a Budget that is deeply regressive, both socially and economically … Socially it hits people on low incomes, including the working poor, more than it hits the better off.
That is the result of the Government, the Labour Party in particular, reneging on the commitments given in the programme for Government and during the 2011 general election. One of the most blatant examples is the cut in child benefit. During the 2011 general election the Labour Party took out Tesco-like advertisements and at every door its candidates told voters that Fine Gael wanted to cut child benefit.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: Is there a question or is this a speech?
Deputy Seamus Healy: Labour Party candidates asked the public to vote for them in order to stop child benefit cuts. The public put its trust in the Labour Party and what happened? The party has supported cuts in child benefit every year since it entered government.
An Ceann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to, please, put his question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: My question for the Minister—–
Deputy Brendan Howlin: The Deputy has a question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: My question for the Minister, if he will listen, is whether he will reverse the social welfare cuts, including, in particular, the cuts in child benefit, heating, fuel and telephone allowances for elderly people and the carer’s allowance. Is the Labour Party not ashamed, in this the centenary year of the 1913 Lockout and the party’s foundation—–
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, but the Deputy is over time.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: He is well over time.
Deputy Seamus Healy: —– that it is introducing budgets that hit the low-paid rather than the super rich and the very wealthy?
Deputy Brendan Howlin: I have listened to the usual political drivel from the Deputy opposite.
Deputy Seamus Healy: It is true.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: It may have escaped the Deputy – perhaps his salary and other supports are too healthy – that we have just gone through the worst economic crisis in the history of the State. The Government has managed to pick up the broken pieces of a shattered economy and returned it to growth. The critical criteria people will consider are fundamental issues such as employment. How many people have jobs? When we entered government, the unemployment figure was heading towards 500,000. The Deputy is not interested in listening to me. He is fumbling with his papers.
Deputy Kathleen Lynch: He is preparing his second speech.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: The unemployment rate is now falling. It is still too high, at 290,000, but we expect it to fall below 11% this year. Nobody would have believed this a few years ago. We have stabilised our budgets and torn up the prom note, that despicable arrangement made by the previous Administration. We have brought confidence back to the economy. That is the judgment people will make.
The Deputy referred to commitments made by my party. He may not have noticed that it is not in a single party Government. We did not win an overall majority in the last general election. We negotiated a programme for Government with a party which had won significantly more seats than we had. However, if one considers the balance between all of the commitments made by my party and Fine Gael to the people, one will see that the vast bulk have been delivered on. For some Deputies opposite, the very prospect of recovery and renewal is anathema to their political outlook. There are Deputies on the Opposition side who revel in the misfortune of the people and the State because they think they can make political capital from it.
Deputy Seamus Healy: The policy of the Government is to make the poor and the less well-off pay.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: That is a lie.
Deputy Seamus Healy: It made promises with full knowledge of the situation in 2011. The assets of the super rich are back above peak levels in 2006, according to the Central Statistics Office.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: What does that mean?
Deputy Seamus Healy: It means that there are very wealthy people in this country.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry, Deputy, but we are dealing with Leaders’ Questions.
Deputy Seamus Healy: The Government has chosen not to make them pay their fair share.
Deputy Paul Kehoe: The Deputy claims only to represent the poor. How many pensions is he getting?
An Ceann Comhairle: What is Deputy Seamus Healy’s supplementary question?
Deputy Seamus Healy: The Government has chosen not to impose an asset or wealth tax on the super rich. However, it is hitting poor and less well-off families.
An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy, please, put his supplementary question?
Deputy Seamus Healy: There is wealth in this country that is not being taxed by the Government. Will the Minister introduce a tax on wealth and assets to ensure the very wealthy in society, that is, those who earn €595,000 a year and those who have significant assets, pay their fair share of taxes?
Deputy Brendan Howlin: The Deputy is probably aware that we have one of the most progressive income tax regimes in the world. Aside from only one country in the OECD, our progressive tax rate is the best.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Will the Government introduce a wealth or an asset tax?
An Ceann Comhairle: Please allow the Minister to reply.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: Deputy Seamus Healy does not want to hear the reply.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I just want the Minister to answer the question.
An Ceann Comhairle: Everybody in the House wants to hear the reply. The Deputy has had his say.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: He had his say, but I am afraid that he just reads his script and is not interested in the reply. We have the second most progressive income tax regime, with a high marginal rate of tax, that we have defended because the crisis in the country requires everyone to make an appropriate contribution.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I am asking about a wealth or an asset tax.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: When we introduce asset taxes, for example, a local property tax which is regarded as the norm among social democratic parties, the Deputy opposite opposes them. He is only in favour of fantasy taxes on fantasy people.
Deputy Seamus Healy: A Fine Gael Minister did it in the past.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: If we were to impose a tax on those earning in excess of €590,000, as the Deputy suggests, how many people would it cover and how much would accrue to the State?
Deputy Seamus Healy: There are 10,000 such individuals.
An Ceann Comhairle: I guarantee the Deputy silence when he is asking a question. Will he, please, respect the respondent?
Deputy Seamus Healy: I would like an answer.
An Ceann Comhairle: Please stay quiet.
Deputy Brendan Howlin: Deputy Seamus Healy is not interested in the answer. He is only interested in making a stump speech. His greatest regret is that the Government’s economic policies are driving recovery and job creation and bringing investment into the State.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Christmas can be a lonely and difficult time of the year for the poor and low-income families, for the elderly, for carers and for long-term social welfare recipients. The Christmas bonus made Christmas for many such families and gave them a little bit of comfort. The official State statistics agency, namely, the Central Statistics Office, has found that almost one quarter of the people do not have the money to afford at least two goods and services that generally are considered the norm for society. This quarter of the population is categorised by the CSO as deprived and that figure has doubled over the past five years. The accepted definition of deprivation means that people cannot afford such basics as heating their homes, buying meat, having a warm coat or buying a gift for a grandchild at Christmas time.
Members know the money is there to pay for a Christmas bonus. Not too long ago, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Costello, told Members in this Chamber that this country is the seventh wealthiest country in the world. In addition, the Central Statistics Office has revealed that gross financial assets of the wealthy are back up to boom levels, at €310 billion. Moreover, the Minister, Deputy Noonan, has informed Members that the top 20,000 earners in this country each earns in excess of €430,000 per annum. A minimal asset or wealth tax or a small increased rate of income tax on such very wealthy individuals would cover the cost of the Christmas bonus many times over. Many civil society organisations, including Age Action, Focus Ireland, OPEN, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, Barnardos, the National Women’s Council, the ICTU president, John Douglas, as well as many more, have called for the restoration of the double social welfare payment at Christmas. In the context of the acknowledged levels of deprivation in Ireland and in the context of such wealth, will the Government show compassion this Christmas and restore the Christmas bonus?
Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Wonder Woman might bring it back.
The Taoiseach: The abolition of the Christmas bonus was announced in 2009 and to restore it now would cost €261 million.
The Taoiseach: The rationale for the abolition of the Christmas bonus back in 2009 was that it was preferable to cutting social welfare rates across the board. In 2010 and 2011, however, the Government of the day reduced primary personal welfare rates for all persons under 66 years by more than €16 per week. In budget 2014 the Government was able to protect the State pension, the carer’s allowance, the disability allowance and other core weekly payments in addition to child benefit, while still reducing the overall welfare spend as part of the necessary effort to reduce the deficit. It would be grand to think that one could do these things but it is not possible.
I appreciate the difficulties that many people have had and continue to have as a result of the economic recession of recent years. That said, we have gone from a position where the country lost 250,000 jobs in three years to one where 1,200 net jobs are being created every week and there has been a fall in the numbers on the live register over 18 consecutive months. It is heartening to see the trends of confidence. Interest rates have fallen below 4% and even the construction index is rising. We still face significant challenges and it is not easy to make decisions to reduce public debt, but we have one of the highest deficits in Europe. We have targets and objectives to achieve and the people have made great sacrifices, but I think they see the process leading in the first instance to an exit from the bailout and following through to creating more jobs and achieving our target of having a deficit below 3% by 2015. By growing the economy there will be more opportunity for people to get gainful employment and to benefit from the rise in the economy. The Government has committed to not reducing core welfare rates and not increasing income tax because that is a tax on work. These are always difficult balances.
I am sorry to have to say to Deputy Healy that it is not possible to restore payment of the Christmas bonus as it was previously. The cost would amount to €261 million and we do not have that money. Unfortunately, we cannot return to the situation where there was an assumption that everything was available for nothing. Someone has to pay at the end of the day and balance is required. The budget maintained the State pension, the carer’s allowance, the disability allowances, other core weekly payments and child benefit. Despite all the cynics and all those who said we would destroy all the welfare payments, that did not happen.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: It did happen.
The Taoiseach: Considering everything, it has not been possible to restore this year’s Christmas bonus at a cost of €261 million.
Deputy Seamus Healy: That is a mean and shameful reply. However, those are not my words. Those are the words of Deputy Eamon Gilmore, leader of the Labour Party, when he addressed a question on Leaders’ Questions to a former Taoiseach who had abolished that bonus:
This payment has been made to pensioners every year for 30 years, even in some of the country’s most difficult economic years … for the first time in 30 years pensioners will not get the small bonus which has been paid to them in years past … The Taoiseach’s reply contrasts sharply with his more sympathetic approach to the golden ten yesterday … They get all the comfort from the Government but pensioners, who worked hard to make the country what it was … are told they will not receive the small payment which made Christmas worthwhile for many of them. This is mean and shameful.
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Healy, please put your supplementary question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I want to ask Deputy Eamon Gilmore and the Labour Party how they can stand over not restoring the Christmas bonus in these circumstances.
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is not asking Deputy Gilmore at the moment. He must ask the Taoiseach a supplementary question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I am referring to how wealthy people were comforted by the previous Government. We know that during the course of this Government since Deputy Gilmore and the Taoiseach came to power—–
An Ceann Comhairle: Please put your supplementary question, Deputy Healy.
Deputy Seamus Healy: —–we know from the Sunday Independent 300 rich list that they have increased their wealth by €9 billion since 2011.
An Ceann Comhairle: Please put your supplementary question, Deputy Healy.
Deputy Seamus Healy: That is €9,000 million. A very small tax, wealth assets or income tax, on these very wealthy individuals would cover—–
An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is not listening to me. Please put your supplementary question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: I have a question.
An Ceann Comhairle: You are way over time.
Deputy Seamus Healy: With all respect, the first question took 15 minutes.
An Ceann Comhairle: With all respect, please put your supplementary question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: As I said, a very small tax—–
Deputy Paul Kehoe: Did the Deputy vote for it? Does he remember that?
Deputy Seamus Healy: —–on these very wealthy individuals would cover this Christmas bonus—–
Deputy Mattie McGrath: The same as Deputy Brian Hayes, the Minister of State.
An Ceann Comhairle: Stay quiet, please.
Deputy Seamus Healy: —–numerous times over.
Deputy Seamus Healy: In the context of the obscene wealth—–
Deputy Mattie McGrath: The Ceann Comhairle is not protecting the Members.
Deputy Seamus Healy: —–of those 300 richest people in this country—–
An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy Healy. Put your supplementary question.
Deputy Seamus Healy: —–will the Taoiseach reconsider his decision not to pay the Christmas bonus and at least give some little comfort to people who are deprived this Christmas?
Deputy Finian McGrath: Do not be a Scrooge.
An Ceann Comhairle: I call the Taoiseach to reply and I ask if he would please stick to one minute. I am getting totally frustrated here. We are now about 12 or 13 minutes over the allocated time. Members either want me to chair this or they do not want me to chair it but do not give me time limits which nobody is prepared to stick to. I do not like interrupting speakers consistently but Members will have to change these time limits if they are not prepared to stick to them, and it is not on.
Deputy Mattie McGrath: The Ceann Comhairle should talk to the Government Whip.
An Ceann Comhairle: I am not referring to you, Taoiseach.
The Taoiseach: It is not possible to restore the Christmas bonus as Deputy Healy suggests because it would cost €261 million. The entire social welfare system is being reformed.
Deputy Seamus Healy: It is being destroyed every day of the week.
The Taoiseach: Instead of passive payments, the change will demonstrate that work will pay and activation measures are being put in place. When the Christmas bonus was abolished in 2009 it was followed in 2010 by reductions in all those areas of social welfare. This Government is committed to not reducing core rates, and in budget 2014 it was possible to protect those.
Deputy Patrick Nulty: The budget cut core rates.
The Taoiseach: It would be lovely from a political point of view to say we can pay for this.
Deputy Seamus Healy: There are buckets of money. This is a very wealthy country.
The Taoiseach: The money is not there.
The Taoiseach: The system is that those who earn most pay the most. The Government restored the minimum wage, removed 330,000 people from liability to the universal social charge, and maintained core rates in all the areas I mentioned, including carer’s allowance, the State pension, disability allowance and child benefit, which is very beneficial for families with children.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Child benefit was cut in the last two budgets. Another promise broken by the Labour Party.
Deputy Healy appeals to Taoiseach Enda Kenny to “reverse the cuts on compassionate grounds, and if he won’t reverse the cuts on compassionate grounds”, Deputy Healy asked the Taoiseach to “at least reverse the cuts to act to protect the integrity of democratic system by making good the commitments he made in 2008”, and also asked the Taoiseach if he will “now withdraw the elderly cuts from social welfare bill, from the health bill and from finance bill.”