Ó Caoláin - Estimates mean cuts and stealth taxes
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