Pearse Doherty budget speech
Minister, for the last number of weeks people across the state have been gripped by two emotions - hope and fear.
They are hoping that the budget you announce today will make things better.
That it will bring jobs; that it will help rebuild our broken economy; that it will improve our health and education systems; and that it will ease the burden they’ve been carrying since 2008.
But they are also fearful; fearful that you will do what you did last year; that will you continue to repeat the mistakes of Fianna Fail; that you will continue to make ordinary people pay for the bad decisions of bankers and politicians.
Minister, people want this government to succeed. Even those who voted against your government, who did not want you in office want you to succeed.
Like the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people, I have shared their hope that this budget would be different, that it would break with the failures of the past, that it would chart a new course, that it would make things better.
But Minister, today you have dashed all of our hopes; you have confirmed all of our fears; despite your best attempts to spin what you have announced today, one thing is crystal clear.
If I closed my eyes during either of the government speeches, I could have been listening to Brian Cowen or anyone else from the Fianna Fail delivering the budget announcement.
Fine Gael and Labour have swallowed the Fianna Fail policies on the economy hook, line and sinker and you’re now implementing them with gusto.
As I listened to you Minister, I wondered if you are living in a different reality to the rest of us.
Your failure to truly grasp what families across this state are going through is shocking.
***I have met these people Minister. They are living from week to week. And they are barely getting by.
They are the mothers who go without dinner so their children can eat.
They are the fathers who stand in the dole queue, trying to keep their pride and wondering will they be able to meet the bills coming in.
They are the elderly people who gave their lives and their taxes to this state and are now living in poverty. Their help is stripped from them in every single budget – yet they still hold themselves with dignity.***
I am embarrassed to stand in this chamber, where we are honoured to be elected to serve, and hear your government so badly let down those people and pretend that their suffering is not real.
What has been delivered in this house today is a bill to the families of Ireland. It is a bill that picks up the tab for Labour, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – three parties that have caused, deepened and lengthened the recession.
Both Labour and Fine Gael stood on this side of the chamber in December 2010 and lambasted Fianna Fáil for imposing four austerity budgets in a row.
Eamonn Gilmore said Fianna Fáil had introduced cuts that broke new ground in political stupidity. Then you cross to that side of the house and introduce two more austerity budgets yourselves.
You’ve implemented over €7 billion in taxes and cuts after riding into office on a wave of public support for an end to austerity.
So much for the brand new dawn.
Few families have been untouched by this crisis, whether by emigration, unmanageable mortgages, bills they can’t meet or job losses.
You clearly think that those families have more to give.
So you hit them with a family home tax and Child Benefit cuts and increased motor charges and hikes in the price of cigarettes and alcohol.
Minister, as someone tweeted earlier, because of your budget today, it will now cost people more to get to work, where they’ll be paid less, to take back to the home, that now costs more to live in.
Tá an Nollaig buailte linn. Ar fud na tíre beidh cathaoireacha folmha ag tábla an dinnéar i mbliana.
Nuair a thug sibh isteach an buiséad deireanach, bhí míle agus cúig chéad duine ag fágáil an stáit gach seachtain.
I mbliana tá míle agus sé chéad ag fágáil, an chuid is mó acu óg, agus iad ag cuardach poist a gheall bhur rialtas dóibh, gealltanas a bhris sibh.
Minister, the biggest cut you inflicted here today is a cut to people’s expectations.
It’s clear you are removed from the suffering of ordinary families. It’s clear you don’t understand what they are going through and what their lives are like.
There is no forgiveness though, for not bothering to read, or else choosing to ignore the many reports that are put on your desk telling you what people are going through.
The Irish League of Credit Unions just a few short months ago revealed that the number of people who are left with €100 or less at the end of each month after essentials has risen to over 1.8 million people.
Half of all adults are struggling to pay their bills on time.
Eight out of ten people are worried that they will not be able to cope with the increasing energy costs this winter.
You have cut Child Benefit. You have cut the Back to School Allowance. You’ve cut the household benefits package.
You’ve reduced the length of time for job seekers’ benefit – once again punishing people for losing jobs and not being able to find others because you won’t create jobs.
You’ve reduced the redundancy rebate.
You’ve increased the A&E admission charge and the cost of prescription medicine. Medical card holders now have to pay treble - €1.50 for prescription charges. You’ve lowered the medical card threshold for over 70s.
You’ve cut the carers’ respite grant.
You’ve increased pupil teacher ratios and increased the third level fees. The Labour Party is well on its way to reversing the free education policy. Yet another broken pledge.
Minister, there are parents in every county who will have felt the blow of this budget in the pit of their stomachs.
Parents who know their children intend to emigrate next year.
Parents who have had to borrow from money lenders to pay for Christmas.
Parents who will be despairing at how to feed their families now that Child Benefit has been cut once again.
Minister, Child Benefit is the payment that is keeping many families just at the water line.
For many working families it is the only assistance they receive from the state.
***They will take the blow quietly because so many of them feel utterly defeated. After shouting so loudly at the ballot boxes for change 22 months ago, a quiet despair has now settled into homes across the state.***
You are responsible for that despair.
You will try to dismiss what I’m saying here tonight, just as you dismiss the many calls from the groups outside, and organisations that represent the vulnerable and the struggling.
You will say there is no alternative, but there is.
You may not have bothered to read it, but the Sinn Féin alternative budget set out a full list of measures, €2.7 billion in taxes and over one billion in savings, which allowed for a €3.5 billion deficit adjustment. These are detailed measures costed through parliamentary questions to your Department of Finance and other relevant departments, excepting of course, the wealth tax which you refuse to cost.
The big difference in our approach and yours, is that we know the €3.5 billion can be achieved without harming families.
Colm McCarthy famously said once that the government had not run out of compassion, it had run out of money. He was wrong.
You’ve run out of principles. You’ve run out of ideas.
Today you raise over €1 billion through a family home tax, motor tax and excise duty increases.
Your family home tax will be the straw that breaks many families.
The so-called mansions tax is nothing more than a gimmick and a poor one at that.
If I’m struggling to feed my children, if I can barely keep the roof over my head, it does not matter to me if the millionaire in the house next to me is paying a few quid more in his family home tax if I still can’t afford to pay mine.
Minister, you could have introduced a wealth tax that asked for a contribution from the very wealthiest in our society. That taxed the net wealth over €1 million at 1%, wealth made up of all property.
Tell me Minister, how is it exactly you’re broadening the tax base when you’re going back to the same families every year and saying ‘give us more’?
You could have introduced a new PRSI rate for employers on income paid over €100,000.
Instead you chose to abolish the PRSI weekly threshold of €127, meaning an extra €264 tax a year.
You have also increased PRSI from self-employed – but what will they get for it?
Minister, you have made so much of your pledge to protect people’s incomes. You claimed that under your government, people could take comfort in knowing what they would bring home each week.
We called on you to change you policy of protecting all tax rates and bands to only protect those under €100,000 per annum. We asked you to increase the rate of tax for those earning over €100,000.
We also asked you to take all those earning the minimum wage out of the USC. People earning €17,000 a year spend every cent into their local economy. Taxing them has the dual effect of hurting their quality of life and hitting their local economies change. Our proposal would have put €10 a week back in their pockets, or over €500 a year for 296,000 people.
Instead, you have gone after those people for €264 a year. Minister, the person on €200,000 will not feel the impact of €264 a year. The person on €18,000 will feel it more than you can imagine.
This measure will bring you in €289 in a full year, but a 48% new tax rate on income over €100,000 would have brought you in €365 million. That would have been progressive Minister.
You could have called for changes to the tax treatment of private pensions. Your changes to the private pension tax reliefs do not go far enough and don’t even apply until 2014.
You have been successfully lobbied by an industry and the Labour Party has spectacularly u-turned on its own policies.
We called on you to standardise pension and other tax reliefs, because it has been revealed time and time again that the top 20% of income earners avail of 80% of the tax reliefs paid. Instead, you will allow people to continue to claim tax reliefs up to 41% for private pensions.
What a short memory the Labour Party has. You were barely in the door before your rally cry changed from tax the wealthy to tax everybody but the wealthy.
You’ve even taxed maternity benefit – you want to tax children before they’re even born!
People in the middle have been asked to give again and again with nothing in return. So let’s look at two people, Micheal and Grainne. They are lucky enough to each have a job paying just under the average industrial wage and they both need a car to get to work. They have four children and their eldest is in university. Let’s see how much they’ve been squeezed.You have just sent them a bill of €1700
By applying PRSI to the first €127 of Michael’s and Grainne’s salary you are charging them an extra €528 a year. On top of that their family home worth €200,000 will now be taxed to the tune of €405. The child benefit they rely to make ends meet will be slashed by €456 next year. The Band C 2009 family cars they need to get to work and to school will be taxed by another €60 each. Next year to educate their eldest child they will be charged an extra €250 in student contribution fees. Michael and Gráinne are being charged over €1700 this year after years of struggling and working hard.
Minister, if that family don’t have their eldest in university, but if they are in receipt of the Back to School allowance, their bill is now €1,900.
You take that family Minister, and tell them it’s a fair budget. Tell them this budget is a measure of success.
A fair budget? High earners measures
Minister, one of the more cynical things you have done here today is try to spin the notion that this budget is fair because you have implemented some measures that affect higher earners.
I welcome the fact that you have introduced some of Sinn Fein’s proposals in this budget. The increase in capital taxes, the higher USC on pensions, PRSI being extended to other forms of income, the lowering of the CAT threshold and the increasing of CAT and CGT – these are measures that are fair and I only wish you had implemented them last year.
Some of these measures are so blindingly obvious, I can’t understand why you did not implement them last year. Better late than never I suppose.
But Minister, let’s not cod ourselves. These measures are a drop in the ocean compared to the pain you have inflicted on ordinary families today, pain that is inflicted on top of successive budgets that have singled out middle and lower income households and targeted them.
A fair budget is not just tackling high earners. A fair budget is protecting people who can’t give anymore and you have not done that.
You stand here today Minister and you use the excuse of limited resources to make the wrong choices.
We know this state is spending more than it takes in. That’s creating a bill that has to be reduced.
Sinn Féin sent you proposals to reduce it. We provided you with choices that added up to €3.5 billion and allowed for new money to spend on restoring and protecting the rights of children and families.
Wealth tax instead of family home tax
A Aire, inniu tá úinéirí tí buailte go fabhtach agat leis an cháin maoine.
Tá thar céad míle duine faoi ualach trom ag riaráistí morgáiste. Tá 1.8 milliún duine a bhfuil níos lú ná €100 le spáráil acu ag deireadh na míosa.
Agus tá tusa i ndiaidh cáin éagórach nach féidir a íoc a bhualadh anuas ar na teaghlaigh seo.
We asked you to choose a wealth tax instead of a family home tax.
Fianna Fail put the family home tax on the table. You did not have to run with it as your policy.
This tax is a fiasco waiting to happen.
In 1994 Enda Kenny opposed the introduction of such a tax. He said, and I quote, “It is morally wrong, unjust and unfair to tax a person’s home"
During the 2011 election campaign Eamon Gilmore promised not to introduce a family home tax on residential homes. He said, and I quote, "We have to remember that many people have already paid a family home tax on their residential home in the form of stamp duty.”
Fine Gael and Labour were elected into office on the basis of these promises.
Today you are breaking these promises. There is only one word for this; hypocrisy.
Hundreds of thousands of families will be unable to pay this tax. Many more that do will be pushed even further into financial stress and poverty.
Your proposal will also hurt the economy. It will take money out of the pockets of those people who keep the local economy alive. This will cost jobs.
This tax is anti-family and anti-jobs.
We are talking about people’s homes. You call it a property tax, but property is everything – it’s houses, shares, horses, yachts. Your tax is on people’s homes. People need their homes. A home is not a luxury.
You want to tax people for having a roof over their heads, even if they have contributed already and are continuing to contribute to economic recovery.
What’s more Minister, most people’s houses are owned by the banks.
Most people have to pay massive mortgages and for those who bought in the last decade, what they’re paying is essentially dead money. It’s payments on a house that’s worth half of what they borrowed to buy it.
So many young families bought houses because they were encouraged, cajoled and bribed into doing so by government and banks.
A lot of these people paid stamp duty at the time of buying their homes, multiple thousands in many cases.
Your family home tax will not take into account what people earn.
You faced massive resistance on the Household charge. That was a €100 charge and families said ‘we cannot pay it and we will not pay it.’
Rather than hear the message, you sent threatening letters to those families.
Your exemptions for the property tax are pitiful and we all know they will result for social housing recipients in more rent, as councils pay the charge.
The idea that you would chase people into the grave for this unjust tax is repulsive. Your deferral for people on this family home tax will come at a cost of 4% interest. So they’ll be chased for the debt and charged interest on it.
Nobody who will struggle to pay this charge cares if other countries have family home taxes.
Those other countries haven’t had a property boom and crash like ours.
They don’t have huge household debts, like ours.
Their taxes pay for free health, free education and decent public services.
Our taxes pay for the mistakes of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour. Our taxes pay for bankers’ salaries and bondholder bailouts.
Minister, a comprehensive wealth tax, is the way of the future. Look abroad and see what your finance minister peers are doing in France, in Spain, in Iceland.
Cut politicians pay not Child Benefit
We asked you to cut the wages of politicians and top ranking civil servants rather than cut Child Benefit.
Despite your tinkering with allowances, the basic TD salary is €92,000 a year. You yourself Minister earn €169,000 basic salary a year and you still receive your ministerial salary.
Your government is not really in a position, is it Minister, to tell a low or middle income family that they can manage without €10 a month in Child Benefit? More, if they have subsequent children.
I can’t imagine any of you have to look into the recesses of your kitchen cupboards for ingredients for dinner, the way a lot of mothers and fathers were doing this afternoon as you delivered your speech.
And believe me, there’s many a family who can make €10 stretch a long way.
These parents have already suffered successive Child Benefit blows.
Now you’ve cut that payment to €130, a cut of €120 per year for a family of one child or €240 for a family of two.
***What is it that happens to Labour and Fine Gael when you get into government together? You seem to be overcome by an incredible urge to make children pay.
It was a tax on children’s shoes in the ‘80s, now you want to slash the benefit that keeps children in shoes.
Do you just not like children, Minister?***
Tax reliefs versus excise duty relief
A Aire, tá scéal mór déanta agat de nár bhain tú le rátaí cánacha ioncaim.
Ach ón lá inniu amach, tiocfaidh ardú ar bhillí cánacha daoine. Ní dhéanann sé mórán difir de ghnáth theaghlaigh cé acu de na cánacha a ardóidh tú. Is í an cheist atá tábhachtach nó cé acu atá níos mó nó níos lú airgid ina bpócaí ag deireadh gach seachtaine.
We asked you to end the generosity of higher tax reliefs for high earners and instead put resources into reducing the excise duty on petrol and diesel.
Today Minister you have increased motor tax and changed VRT.
You have increased carbon tax which will put up the cost of fuel.
The AA calculated that an average family’s fuel bill has risen from €142 a month in January 2009 to €300 in January 2012 for the same amount of fuel.
Motorists have been squeezed from every angle by successive budgets introduced by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour and you want to squeeze them more.
Just this week, people saw the costs of public transport increase. That’s biting at people who are paying more just to get into work.
In rural Ireland, that choice isn’t even there. They have to run a car because your government and Fianna Fail refused to invest in public transport. And between the fuel hikes, the motor tax hikes and the VRT change you’re implementing a policy that for many families makes it too costly to leave their homes.
You have abandoned rural Ireland and let me be clear, the people of rural Ireland know it.
I will say, on the issue of fuel, I’m happy you have agreed to a rebate on fuel tax for the haulage industry, as we called on you to do in our jobs document in October. Hopefully it provides some relief to transport firms.
Tax super pensions versus home help hours restored
Minister, we asked you to increase the taxable amounts from the super pension pots so you could restore the almost one million home help hours cut by your government this year.
There are thousands of people who every day do a job without any help or acknowledgement from the state.
They spend every waking hour and many an hour at night when the rest of us are sleeping taking care of elderly, infirm parents, or severely disabled children.
They have no nights out, no holidays.
Their ability to work in full time paid employment is stripped from them and the small carers’ allowance they receive is under constant threat.
They are the unrecognised heroes. The only respite available to them is the few hours of home help they get in a week which lets them get to the post office, to the chemist, or to the grocery store.
You’ve taken away the ability for many people to live an independent life – home help was their chance to stay in their own homes and not be, in their words, a burden on the state.
Again, you’ve taken the Fianna Fail policy of placing the heaviest burden on the shoulders of those who can manage it the least.
You had choices Minister, but the only choice you made was to ignore that fact.
And then you couch your budget measures in lectures on deficits and numbers and targets and you claim that we’re getting there.
***Getting where, Minister?
A 3% deficit in 2015 won’t fill a child’s belly.
It won’t put clothes on that child going to school.
It won’t warm the house of an elderly couple, who face the choice every day between heating or eating.***
A Aire, ní chruthaíonn preas ráitis ó rialtais poist. Is infheistíocht atá de dhíth chun daoine a fháil ar ais ag obair.
Tá an neamart iomlán atá déanta agaibh in infheistíocht i bpoist ag cur deireadh le slí beatha daoine.
Le bliain anuas, cailleadh 5,800 post níos mó ná a cruthaíodh.
O tháinig Fine Gael agus Lucht Oibre i gcumhacht, tá 20,000 níos lú post sa gheilleagar.
For the last four years you and Fianna Fail have attempted to fix the economy through austerity. It is not working.
You cannot starve your way out of a famine.
You have to invest in growth and invest in jobs.
The record levels of unemployment have seen our tax receipts collapse and our social welfare spend go through the roof.
We both know it’s a problem, Minister, so why do you refuse to do anything about it?
Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil all talk the talk on growth. They talk a great deal on the need for jobs in the economy.
But you do nothing!
Sinn Féin sent you a jobs plan in October which set out a strategy for investment in the economy that would create thousands of jobs.
We showed you how a €13 billion stimulus could be paid for, through the National Pension Reserve Fund, through the European Investment Bank, the Private Pension industry and by not cutting the capital budget.
We identified all the areas where the state needs to get the shovel in the ground from:
• Building new schools and primary care centres
• Rolling out broadband
• Rebuilding the sugar beet industry in the South East
• Investing in Knock Airport and Belmullet’s wave energy centre
• Deepening the harbour at Rosslare
• Regenerating Cork docklands, and Limerick and Dublin housing projects
• A multi-million euro investment in upgrading our water structure
• And funding the A5 to fully open up the North West for business.
We identified the obstacles faced by businesses trying to keep people in jobs and create some more, like upward-only rent contracts, unbearable high overheads and red tape.
We called on you freeze utility costs for businesses.
We called on you to tackle the licence delays for businesses.
We called on you to introduce a job retention fund for businesses.
It was an idiot-proof guide to job creation but we clearly aimed it over your heads, because you still don’t seem to be able to grasp the link between government investment and jobs.
Today, you have cut €500 million from the capital expenditure budget.
You may as well have packed the bags of the 5,000 young Irish men and women who would have and should have got the construction jobs that €500 million would have created next year, but are now destined for Canada and Australia.
Minister, Fianna Fail in office turned on the emigration tap. You’ve refused to turn the tap off.
The people who leave our shores are more than just numbers.
***A young woman contacted me recently, having just emigrated to Canada with her husband and two young girls.
She told me how her parents had described their leaving as being like a ‘death in the family’.
That they mourned her leaving that night, like they had mourned her brother dying several years ago.
She spoke of her distress at inflicting that on them, of taking their grandchildren away from a close knit family, and her frustration at feeling like she had no choice.
Her story is familiar but no less shocking – the mortgage that became unaffordable when the jobs were lost, the reality of a dole queue for the first time, the desperation as the reminder letters started to come in the door, the multiple strained meetings with banks and the knowledge that the sums didn’t add up.
Minister, that young family have uprooted their whole lives and moved to the other side of the world.
They’ll spend Christmas alone this year and her facebook page, like so many others, is full of best wishes and messages telling her how much she is missed.
Her goodbye from this state was a letter from the Department of Social Potection looking for confirmation of her flight details so they wouldn’t overpay her Child Benefit.***
If ever proof was needed of the lack of compassion this government has for ordinary people, this story is it.
Yet you have an abundance of compassion for the bankers of this state.
As you tell people yet again that they need to pull their belts a little tighter, the fat cats in the banks’ headquarters are loosening theirs a notch, after another year of creaming it at the expense of the taxpayers.
Just last month I revealed that nearly 3,000 staff at banks we have bailed out are still paid over €100,000 every year.
326 receive more than €200,000; 104 receive more than €300,000; 48 receive more than €400,000 and 27 receive more than half a million.
They are salaries that most people can only dream of.
These are the same bankers who continue to preside over a banking system which shows no compassion for its customers, the taxpayers who bailed them out.
Instead of passing on rate cuts from the ECB to mortgage holders, they hike up their fees.
They massage their figures on lending to small and medium enterprises
They are the same banks who have to date received over €64 billion in capitalisation from this state.
While you don’t hesitate in the slightest to spoon out the tough medicine to families today, when it comes to bankers’ pay and perks you wring your hands and cry helplessness.
In today’s budget you had an opportunity to use the tax system to claw back some of the pay-outs and payoffs to the bankers and politicians who wrecked our economy.
Minister, you have announced a 3% increase in the Universal Social Charge on pension income over €60,000 per year for people over 70 years of age.
I have no doubt that some Government backbenchers, particularly in the Labour Party, will try to spin this measure as a meaningful tax on the very wealthy in our society.
There are 160 retired bankers from the covered institutions who are receiving annual pension payments in excess of €100,000 per year.
How many of these are over 70? Sean Fitzpatrick is not. Brian Goggin is not. Eugene Sheehy is not. Colm Doherty is not.
These were the men that ran Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank and Anglo Irish Bank into the ground.
And what of the former Fianna Fail Ministers who bailed out these bankers? Former Taoisigh living the high life on lavish pensions while ordinary people bear the brunt of the crisis they
Minister, there is no impediment to cutting bankers’ pay.
In opposition, you and Labour called for bankers’ pay to be capped at €250,000.
Indeed it was only Micheal Martin and Michael McGrath and the rest of the gang in Fianna Fail that opposed cuts to bankers’ pay and wanted to protect their lavish salaries and perks.
I presented you with legislation last month that would enable the state to claw back a large amount of the money paid to them without breaking any contracts, merely by applying a levy on excess payments.
Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are like the three wise monkeys when it comes to bankers’ pay: ‘See no cuts for the bankers, hear of no cuts for the bankers and speak of no cuts for the bankers’.
People at home aren’t fools Minister. They are well wise to the fact that today you’ve put together a package of measures that will slash and burn their income to the tune of €3.5 billion, a figure similar to the €3.1 billion that you will put into Anglo Irish bank next March.
Just as you did last March and then March before.
You might try to do an Arthur Daly on the figures and duck and dive with bond notes, but the reality is, after your grandstanding about not one more cent, you’ve poured money into the banks. Over €21 billion in recapitalising and over €6 billion to Anglo.
You’ve no problem coming in here and making demands of the Irish people – telling them they have to give more and live on less.
Why don’t you make demands of the banks?
Why don’t you make demands of your colleagues in Europe?
The Greeks and the Spanish have no problems making demands, but while you come in here and talk about tough choices, you don’t seem to be able to do any tough talking in Europe.
You take the Irish people for fools Minister and they are not.
The banks that escalated a problem into a crisis continue as though nothing has happened.
Fianna Fail, the party that started the crisis pretends it never happened.
And the rest of us are handed a bill and told to accept the economic reality.
You couldn’t make it up.
Minister, as you make your €3.5 billion adjustment today, you will be bringing the total in taxes and cuts to this economy over five years to €28 billion.
This is your second austerity budget after Fianna Fail introduced four.
But you don’t plan to stop now. You plan to take another €5 billion out of the economy in the next two budgets bringing us up to 2015.
2016, as you know, will mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.
100 years after the Republic was proclaimed, what kind of a state will Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have left us in?
You have decimated public services.
You have taxed ordinary families beyond coping point.
You have forced another generation of young Irish men and women abroad, with little hope of return.
The men and woman of 1916 did not risk their lives for these three parties to tear the fabric out of our society.
They did not declare a Republic for you to hand the keys of government buildings over to the Troika.
They stood up for Irish citizens, but you stand only for bankers, bondholders and vested interests.
You have sullied the vision that inspired the women and men of 1916. In doing so you have failed, and continue to fail, the people of this state.
Your arrogance and lack of compassion knows no bounds. Your claim that there are no alternatives is pathetic.
***Last week listening to the radio I was reminded of the power of ordinary people to bring about change.
In 1955 Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
As a woman and as an African American she had been taught to accept her lot in life; to accept second class citizenship; to accept that there were no alternatives.
But one day she decided that enough was enough. She refused to give up her seat to a white passenger.
When she was interviewed afterwards she said ‘The time had just come when I had been pushed as far as I could be pushed.’***
Rosa Parks act of defiance inspired an entire generation of civil rights campaigners to struggle for a better life.
Tired of being pushed around, she decided that she would be pushed around no longer. She stood up for herself and all those who, like her, were being treated as second class citizens.
In today’s budget Minister you have pushed people as far as they can be pushed.
It is time for people to realise that they don’t have to take this anymore. It is time for people to take a stand.
Whether it’s with Sinn Féin, or behind their union banner, or in their communities, they can organise and they can fight back.
They are citizens and they have rights. They elected us and they can replace us.
It is time for people to draw a line in the sand; to say no to your family home tax; to say no to your cuts to child benefit; to say no to your policies of unemployment and forced emigration.
When Rosa Parks decided to say enough is enough, she gave people hope that a better future was possible. When she decided to take a stand she gave people the confidence to follow her lead.
Like Rosa Parks, I believe that a better future is possible.
I believe that our broken economy can be fixed; that jobs can be created; and that our children can have a future in their own country. I believe that there is an alternative to the failed policies of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour.
That is why I and my Sinn Féin colleagues will be voting against this budget.