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Ó Caoláin - Estimates mean cuts and stealth taxes

19 November, 2003

Rejecting  the  Book  of Estimates during the debate in the Dáil today Sinn Féin Dáil  leader  Caoimhghin  Ó  Caoláin  accused  the  Government  of  launching  a "two-pronged  attack  on  the citizens of this State" by charging more money for less  services.   He  described  as "mean and dangerous" the restrictions on the rent  supplement,  which he said would "penalise the homeless, the poorly housed and those on the economic margins."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"There  is  deep  anger throughout the country at the series of cuts and stealth taxes arising from the Estimates.

"In  a  two-pronged  attack  on  the  citizens  of  this State the Government is charging  more  money for less services and is cutting back vital provisions for some  of the most vulnerable people in our society. This is typified by the mean and  dangerous restrictions on rent supplement which will penalise the homeless, the  poorly  housed  and  those  on  the  economic  margins.  The restriction of qualification  to  those  who  have been in private rented accommodation for six months  is  a  disgrace.  It  will increase homelessness and mean that people in dangerous  domestic  situations  will  be  further inhibited from moving out and finding their own accommodation.

"Before  the General Election Fianna Fáil promised to extend the medical card to a  further  200,000  people. Since the General Election the same people who were promised  that  they  would benefit by this extension have been hit by increased charges for htimates for health do not provide for the reforms which the  government  claims  it  is  committed  to. They will simply keep the system limping along from crisis to crisis.

"Already  I  have  received  representations about the cuts in Back to Education Allowance  where  the  qualifying  period  is  rising  from  6  to  15 months. A constituent  has pointed out that he will now have to claim unemployment benefit for  an  additional  nine  months.  This  cut is illogical and can only serve to dissuade people from returning to education.

"Minister  McCreevy  in  his  Estimates  statement last week spoke of 'a tighter approach  and  greater  prioritisation  of spending' but where was this approach when  he was bankrolling his pet project in Punchestown in his own constituthat 254  Bank  of  Ireland  customers  with offshore accounts had settled unpaid tax bills  with  the  Revenue  Commissioners.  The  tax  recovered  amounted to €100 million.  One individual paid €7.3 million in back taxes. A recent study by KPMG found  that  over €4 billion had been lodged in the Isle of Man bank accounts of six Irish subsidiaries between 1998 and 1999.

"Of  the  top  400  earners  in  this  State  surveyed  in  2002  by the Revenue Commissioners  117 had an effective tax rate of less than 30%, in a system where over  500,000 PAYE workers are paying the top 42% rate of income tax. 18% of the top earners were paying less than 15% tax. Some were paying no tax at all.

"Instead  of  restructuring  our  tax system to create greater equity and ensur greater  revenue  from the wealthy this Government punishes the ordinary citizen with  stealth  taxes  and  social  welfare  cuts.  Instead of providing both the reforms  and  the  resources  needed to deliver better health, education, social welfare  and  infrastructure,  this Government mismanages on a massive scale and squanders the resources of the Irish people.

"On behalf of Sinn Féin I reject these Estimates. We will be campaigning against these  cuts  and stealth taxes. We will be campaigning for their reversal in the Budget and calling to account this discredited and incompetent coalition." ENDS

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