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Sinn Féin Senators oppose budget in the Seanad

6 December, 2011

Sinn Féin senators have tonight voiced their opposition to the budget in the Seanad.

Senator Kathryn Reilly said:

“This is the wrong type of budget, by the wrong type of government with the wrong priorities for the people.

“We needed a budget that changed the direction of economic policy, that prevented the emergence of a lost generation, that changed course on cutting too far and too fast.

“This was not that budget.”

Full text of Senator Reilly’s speech:

A chairde, this is not a growth budget.

It is not a jobs budget.

It is a budget like the four the government parties had voted down previously.

It is a budget for more of the same.

It's hurting but it isn't working.

It's the wrong type of budget

The wrong type of budget, by the wrong type of government with the wrong priorities for this state.

Nobody voted for this deficit plan, least of all the voters who were told:

• There would be no increases to student college contributions
• There would be no cuts to child benefit
• There would be no cuts to social welfare

Next year, over one million families with low incomes will be down €1,000 a year.

The government should be ashamed of their broken promises.

They should be ashamed of the cost of living crisis they are imposing on the low and middle income families of this state.

But we were promised falling unemployment too.

And what has happened since the government announced the Jobs Initiative in May?

Over 5,000 more people are looking for work. Thousands more have emigrated.

And last week we were told 22,000 more people will become unemployed next year and 40,000 will emigrate.

To this government, just like the ones of the past, unemployment is still a price worth paying.

Because of this many people will wonder on what planet the minister is living.

In each electoral division in this state, 12 people are getting ready to leave.

One in five young people is looking for work.

Communities are seeing garda stations, army barracks and A&Es close.

Families are seeing their living standards squeezed.

Not just this year, but for the next four years under this government.

This budget was presented on the basis of three guiding principles: fairness, jobs and reform.
We agree that there is no easy way out of this crisis, but there is a fair way.
The fair way would have been to tax wealth.

It was not fair to cut disability allowance payments to young people, to cut the fuel allowance season, to make third level education unaffordable for swathes of people or to increase VAT.

Reform would have been leading by example. Reform would have been across the board pay cuts for yourself and your ministerial colleagues and for top level civil and public servants.

This government slapped reform in the face when they repeatedly broke their own pay ceilings for their ministerial advisors, on 14 occasions in all and when the Taoiseach insisted on a €37,000 salary hike for Fine Gael’s former Director of Communications.
Fragile consumer and business confidence will be crushed by the rise in VAT, the anticipated fall in public sector demand and the reality of falling incomes.

The economy has been starved of investment for the last number of years and we cannot begin the process of recovery in the absence of significant investment.

Without consumer demand and ability to spend, and without investment in capital spending, jobs will not materialise.

Before the election we said, like every party, we had to get our deficit down and that meant tough decisions on tax and spending cuts.

It wasn’t an argument about whether or not we need to see the deficit reduced.

It was a practical one, of how we best make it happen.
We said the National Pension Reserve Fund should be used for a stimulus programme- that the €5.3billion still left in the fund should be invested in job creation and not pumped yet again into the banks.
We said additional money should be drawn down from the European Investment Bank.
Sinn Féin set out the real benefits of a €7 billion stimulus plan over three years – where such an investment could protect almost 100,000 jobs and create 60,000 additional jobs.
Of course the government thought we were wrong. They still do. But the figures speak for themselves.
Your jobs initiative fell far, far short of the stimulus shock required to get the economy moving again.
And overall growth is being held back by the scale of shrinking domestic demand.

That is what has had a chilling effect on our economy.

At this stage growth should be powering ahead.

Unemployment should be falling fast.

But every month when unemployment is higher than it should be it stores up long-term damage.

Every month when growth is lower than it should be, it hits the future potential of our economy.

The problem is, instead of admitting it, this Government refuses to change course.

Is it not far better to change course and have a credible deficit reduction plan based on higher growth and employment, rather than a failing plan based on low growth and high unemployment?

Since 2009, the underlying deficit has shrunk by less than two per cent, falling from 11.8% to just over 10%.

€20.6 billion has been withdrawn from the economy since 2008 through a series of spending cuts and tax increases.

That suggests that the economic strategy of the previous government has been a failure.

While fiscal consolidation is required, the singular focus on cuts without consideration for growth has failed.

The package of cuts announced over the last two days is the first instalment in the government’s four-year plan that will see a further €12.4 billion taken out of the economy over the next four years.

But more cuts, in the same vein, affecting the same people, will not lead to a better outcome.

We needed a budget that changed the direction of economic policy.

We needed a budget that prevented the emergence of a lost generation.

We needed a budget that changed course on cutting too far and too fast.

This was not that budget.

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