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Ferris attacks miserly attitude to Social Welfare

10 December, 2003

Speaking in the Dáil today on the Social Welfare Bill, Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris contrasted the attitude of those in power to the wealthy, with what he described as their "miserly" attitude to those living on social welfare and low wages. He contrasted the manner in which working class communities were treated when it came to social welfare increases and grants, to the generosity displayed towards the rich in terms of tax breaks and the recent funding of the Punchestown Equestrian Centre.

In part of his contribution, Deputy Ferris said: "It is ironic that the right wing parties who are so upright and strict in the manner in which they regulate the incomes of working class people, remain just as generous and accommodating to their wealthy friends as they were in the good old days of the 1980s. Days that we were reminded of the other day when we saw former Minister Ray Burke resurface in relation to his activities on their behalf when a member of a previous Fianna Fáil Government.

"Those were the days when An Taoiseach Charles Haughey appeared on television to remind us all that we must tighten our belts, and that it was necessary to decimate our social services in order to pay the massive debts that had been accumulated over the years. And most people fell for this, and voted for the three parties that oversaw the cutbacks of the 1980s. Little knowing of course that while they were counting each penny, that practically every member of what we might ironically call the ruling class ? although perhaps the misruling class might be more appropriate ? was committing tax fraud on a massive scale.

"While people were dying because of the lack of hospital places, the great and the good were shifting hundreds of millions into illegal offshore bank accounts. And not content with that, those who were part of the golden circle were also enriching themselves through land speculation. And of course land was not the only commodity that those in power were able to sell at the expense of the people they were supposed to represent. Look at what happened to our natural resources. Handed over to the multi-nationals for nothing. That is something that demands as much an explanation as the issues currently before the Tribunals. Who decided that the massive potential wealth that lies under Irish waters should be given away and why did they do so.

"The reason I refer all of this is that it exposes the vast difference in the attitude which the right wing parties take towards different sections of our society. Minor changes in social welfare or cutbacks such as that applied to the Back to Education grant are justified in the name of preventing fraud while the sort of abuses I have described above were tolerated for decades and the same sort of people are still given favoured treatment by their friends in power.

"Anyone who doubts that need only look at the recent handout given to Punchestown. And contrast that to the miserly attitude displayed by the Department of Sport to clubs that were seeking small amounts of money under the Sports Capital Grant. Clubs like those in Tralee which are attempting to provide vital amenities for young people in areas that are designated under the RAPID programme.

"I would humbly suggest that the money given to Punchestown would be far better spent on providing the facilities that will provide young people with an opportunity to develop their talents and personalities, rather than as a gift to those who don't need it. And yet these are the same people who lecture working class people about not doing things for themselves. They are only too happy of course as always to take whatever they can in handouts and tax breaks." ENDS

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