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Ó Caoláin rejects ‘discriminatory tax’ in debate on pension levy legislation

24 February, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, on the Government legislation to introduce the pension levy, Sinn Féin Dáil leader rejected the legislation describing it as a discriminatory tax. Deputy Ó Caoláin also welcomed today's Garda raid on the headquarters of Anglo Irish Bank but said it should have happened long ago.

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin's contribution follows:

"I welcome today's Garda Fraud Squad raid on Anglo-Irish Bank. I hope that, after such a lapse of time since the scandal broke, it was not met with empty filing cabinets and deleted computer files. The bank should have been treated like this long ago instead of being nationalised and the Anglo-Irish ten should be named and shamed.

"But even as the raid was going on we were reading of how a now resigned director of Anglo-Irish is still receiving annually fees of €28,000 of taxpayers' money for sitting on two State boards - Forfás and Bórd na Móna. This perk from the public purse is more than many low-paid workers receive in salary for a year. Another now resigned Anglo-Irish director receives €16,846 annually for his role as chair of the Dublin Airport Authority.

"In contrast, I want to commend the over 100,000 people who marched on the streets of Dublin last Saturday to demand fairness and equity in the measures to be taken to address the greatest economic crisis we have faced since at least the 1930s.

"Some commentators have tried to portray that great mobilisation in a negative light. Yes, there is anger - justifiable anger. Yes, there is much pessimism and who can blame people for that, given the scale of the crisis we are seeing and the prospect that it will get much worse before it gets better.

"But there is also a willingness on the part of people to play their part in putting things right, to pay their fair share, to work for one another, for their families, for their communities and for this country.

"And that is also why there is so much deep anger. Because we have seen as we have never seen before, nakedly exposed, the absolute greed at the head of the Irish financial system and in the upper echelons of big business.

"And what is worse, we have seen how this greed - and in some cases criminal greed - was facilitated or connived at by this State's political leaders and so-called regulators.

"As the HSE faces a shortfall of over €1 billion in 2009 we learn of the massive salaries and allowances at the top of the HSE, including €16,000 per month for an advisor to HSE Chief Brendan Drumm.

"But where did the Government go to impose sanctions and penalties when the bubble burst? They slashed health and education services and they rushed to impose this disgraceful, inequitable and possibly illegal public service pension levy. Low and middle income workers are penalised most by this imposition. It is not a pension levy because it is payable on all earnings and not only on pensionable salaries. The facts speak for themselves.

"For example, less than 5% of nurses and midwives actually get a full pension; the HSE in 2007 paid out 6.8% of its total salary bill to pensioners and collected 6.5% of its salary bill from serving staff.

"I repeat, people in the public service are willing to make a further contribution, but they are not willing and they will not stand for the imposition of this discriminatory tax - a tax, in effect on public service rather than on public service pensions.

"I reject efforts to divide public sector from private sector workers. They marched side by side on the streets of Dublin last weekend. Workers in all parts of the public service marched with workers in the likes of Waterford Glass and SR Technics.

"I want to refer especially to SR Technics, a world leader in aircraft repair and maintenance, a strategic industry for Ireland, a bank of skills built up by Irish workers over generations.

"The multinational owner, for its own selfish corporate reasons, has brought the company and its 1100 workers and their families to the brink of closure, the loss of their livelihoods and the loss to Ireland of this viable and vital industry.

"I salute the workforce in their current efforts to save the company. The Government must play its part fully in this effort, including investing capital if necessary. A bank of world-class skills and an employer of 1100 people is more important than a toxic bank and is far more worthy of Government support.

"We need a job retention and job creation strategy and we need it now. There is no such strategy in this Bill which we reject. Let the Government bring forward a viable and fair strategy and we will support it." ENDS

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