Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Budget 2013 fails the fairness test – McDonald

5 December, 2012 - by Mary Lou McDonald TD


Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Mary Lou McDonald TD described the Government’s treatment of children in Budget 2013 as disgraceful noting it runs against all the fine words and concern voiced by Ministers during the recent Children’s Rights referendum.

Deputy McDonald said:

“This government doggedly confuses hard decisions with bad choices. It looks for the soft options, for soft targets. Labour and Fine Gael share the same perverse instincts as the last Fianna Fáil lead administration, that punishing struggling families is somehow fair.

“Fine Gael and Labour’s Budget 2013 announcements have failed the fairness test. This budget is deeply unfair to those on low incomes, to children, to single parent families, to homeowners in negative equity and to the elderly.

“The treatment of children in this budget is disgraceful. It runs against all the fine words and concern for child welfare expressed in the course of the children’s referendum only some weeks ago. The cut to child benefit, increase in pupil teacher ratio, and the abolition of the PRSI exemption will all impact badly on kids. Tokenistic gestures such as a meagre €2.5 million for childcare places and educational supports in disadvantaged areas and €14 million for child care for low income workers; cobbled together no doubt to save the blushes of the Labour party. These measures are a drop in the ocean of what’s needed and don’t even come close in compensating for the real damage done to children today.

“The spectacle of a government that talks tough when punishing its own people and yet time and again returns home from European Council meetings with its tail between its legs is truly pitiful. It is unworthy of those that Fine Gael and Labour are supposed to represent.

“When will this government have the tough talk with Angela Merkel? Or with the lads from the Troika? Has the Minister for Finance or the Taoiseach even told them that the people cannot and should not be expected to pay for the bank’s bad debts?

“Of course we know the answer to this. Fine Gael and Labour Ministers no longer even try to disguise their lily livered, gutless interaction with our EU partners with guff about repairing our ‘international reputation’. If this Government is unable to secure a deal on the debt burden, on the Anglo promissory note, if it is incapable of deficit reduction that doesn’t crush low and middle income families, then it is simply not up to the job of government.” ENDS

Note to Editor: Please find below Deputy McDonald Budget 2013 speech in full

This is the sixth successive austerity budget, the sixth occasion on which government ministers announce a vicious attack on the living standards of low and middle income people and their families.

This Labour/Fine Gael government shares the same perverse instincts as the last Fianna Fáil lead administration; Shares the same unshakable belief that punishing struggling families is somehow fair.

Well, it is not.

Neither is it acceptable.

It is deeply insulting to the well-being – not to mention the intelligence – of citizens to constantly parrot the rhetoric of fairness whilst delivering policies that devastate peoples’ standard of living and their morale.

It is a joke to speak the language of economic growth and jobs while introducing another contractionary budget that will further damage the domestic economy, lengthen the dole queues and send more of our people on the emigration trail.

Despite the media hype and the supposed haggling at Cabinet, it turns out that once again Fine Gael have it largely their own way.

Inequality on Fine Gael’s watch comes as no surprise; they don’t ‘do’ social solidarity, it’s not in their DNA.

Fine Gael take the view that the working poor or people struggling on welfare can be offered up to protect wealth and the wealthy.

Today the surrender of the Labour party to this agenda is final and complete.

The party of James Connolly is now lead by the nose, following a course that brings devastation to low and middle income workers and their families.

The Labour party now defends the very policies that so angered them when in opposition, standing shoulder to shoulder with a party that they vowed to rein in as partners in government.

If Labours plan on entering government was, as you claimed, to contain and put manners on Fine Gael – then your plan has failed – and failed spectacularly.

Labour has surely hit rock bottom when the only comfort their Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, can offer to pensioners who can’t afford the property tax is that they can defer payment until after they die.

Just like Fianna Fáil before them, this government runs a twin track strategy of austerity, cutbacks and charges on workers alongside a craven appeasement of bondholders, bankers and international financial institutions.

Add to that the truly warped sense of entitlement of senior politicians and the upper echelons of the public service on bumper salaries and pensions and the full scale madness at play becomes evident.

None of this is lost on the general public.

This budget is very bad news for everyone who counts the cents at the end of each week, who are put to the pin of their collar just to survive.

There is little comfort in this budget for families saddled with negative equity - who are in mortgage default or muddling by on interest only arrangements.
No comfort but a tax on their home as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

For the average working family this budget means a tax of between 300 euro and 500 euro in a full year on their family home, a cut to their child benefit, a reduction in health and education services and a decrease to their take home pay.

PRSI - The €127 exemption on all those earning €352 a week is to be abolished. That will cost each taxpayer some €261 per annum – regardless of your income - €18,000 a year or €180,000 a year.

For those out of work the prospects are very grim. You have failed to deliver any job creation plan. You cynically rely on emigration – the loss of our brightest and best – to reduce the numbers on the live register.

What the Minister describes as ‘changes to the qualifying criteria for social welfare benefits’ are in fact cuts. The pretence by government that they have protected welfare payments is downright dishonest.
Jobseekers Benefit entitlement has been reduced by 3 months

Back to Education Grant reduced – maximum standard rate for those applying for Jobseekers allowances has been reduced (160)

The treatment of children in this budget is disgraceful. It runs against all the fine words and concern for child welfare expressed in the course of the children’s referendum only some weeks ago.

Cutting funding to education, cutting the back to school allowance.

The tokenistic children’s package announced today , cobbled together no doubt to save the blushes of the Labour party, doesn’t even begin to compensate for the real damage done to children today.

The cut to child benefit will hit families hard. A family with two children will be down €240 while a family with four children will loose €696.

Last year when you cut child benefit and targeted lone parents, you promised a world class ‘Scandanavian model’ of childcare to compensate.

What a joke! Ask the parents of Ireland about this world class service – you know what they’ll tell you!

This is a bad day for children and for parents.

Your government has failed the first real test of your commitment to children and their welfare since the referendum.


By direct contrast the government treats those on high incomes and those who are very wealthy with kid gloves.

There is no additional tax on individual incomes of over €100,000.

There is no proposal to broaden the tax base by levying a charge on wealth – a real property tax.
Those at the upper echelons of the civil and public service are still protected – not by the Croke park agreement – but by this government.

No tough medicine for them

Government has flatly refused to address the runaway pay and has tinkered around the edges of dealing with excessive pension pots of a small number in the public service. The same government that will now go back looking for more from rank and file civil and public servants on very modest incomes.

So much for fairness.
So much for recovery.
So much for political change.

Our country is in crisis with nearly 15% of the working population on the live register. The working class is hurting.

The middle class – ‘middle Ireland’ – is hurting too.

Families who never thought they would see the inside of a community welfare office are now pushed to put food on the table and keep the lights on.

Yet you sneer at our proposal to introduce an emergency pay cap of €100,000 in the public sector.

Such a pay cap could pay for…..
• Free school books for every child in the state – 45 million
• An extra €16.50 a week to One Parent Families in work – 32 million
• Double the budget for school meals – 35 million
• Increase the fuel season allowance by six weeks – 53 million
• The reinstatement of 950,000 home help hours – 17 million
• The restoration of the training and materials allowance for CE participants – 12.5 million

But you don’t have the bottle to make that choice – a hard choice but a fair choice.

Your government’s ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude is perhaps most clear in your failure to deal with politicians pay and allowances.

Budget 2013 cuts to Oireachtas allowances – tinkering around the edges

• Committee Chairpersons will still receive an additional €9000 or more on top of their basic pay – this is the same as the total basic annual social welfare payment to a jobless person.
• So called super junior Ministers will still get an extra 17,000 euro for showing up at cabinet meetings.
• You shell out huge salaries to your special advisors Joan Burton, the Minister for Social Protection, pays her Special Advisor 127,000 euro a year. The irony of this payment is cruel.

You could have made different choices:-
• Capping special advisor pay alone at the first point of the principal officer grade would save half a million euro
• Abolishing committee chair persons allowances 230,000 euro.
• Scrapping members mobile phone allowances 113,000 euro.
• Capping the Taoiseach and Ministers pay at 100,000 euro, TDs at 75,000 euro and Senators at 60,000 would save nearly four and half million euro.

These are the kind of cuts any Government worth its salt and commitment to fairness would implement.
Fine Gael and Labour promised so much when in reality the same boys club culture remains.
I can see it in my mind’s eye the Economic Management Council – an Taoiseach, Tánaiste and the Ministers for Financial misery- four men in a huddle, reassuring each other that …..
You still pay yourselves more than your European counterparts.

You actually believe you are entitled to basic salaries of 137,000, - 169,275 and 200,000 euro.

The French president earns €20,000 a year less than the Taoiseach. French Ministers are paid €40,000 less a year than their Irish counterparts. France is not in a bail out and its population is 13 times that of our own.
Are you really worth it? Are you for real?

The health service is under unbearable strain – it is simply not working. The Minister, James Reilly, is not up to the job of management or reform.

Under your watch over 870 hospital beds have closed - 1,200 nursing home beds have closed, 950,000 home help hours have been cut from the system - and cuts to disability and mental health services have taken their toll.

It is ironic that the very Department requiring a supplementary budget of 360 million euro is now to be cut by 1.17 billion euro in a full year. How on earth can you do this without damaging the most basic of care?
The €1.50 per item prescription fee with the monthly cap increased from 10 euro to 19.50, and €12 rise in the drug refund scheme will add to the distress of patients of all ages and in particular parents with sick children.
No proper detail on generics / private income from public beds in expenditure report

Cuts targeted at the elderly in gas, electricity and telephone allowances are particularly callous.
Medical card replacement by GP card - 600-700 euro/wk single & 1,200 – 1,400 euro/week
Our older citizens paid their way, built this country and now you deliver a slap in the face to them.

Once again and true to form you target third level students. Another massive hike in the registration fee - another additional 250 euro to be found by students and their families for the privilege of accessing third level education.

And make no mistake but you are making education a privilege for this generation.

Do you ever wonder where students are to find this cash?
Do you care?

Does the glaring contradiction between your stated commitment to the knowledge economy to up skilling and to educational excellence - and pricing people out of educational opportunity not give you any pause for thought?

Students of all ages are now wise to the two faced approach of your government. You sold them a pup at the last election – you’ll not do that again. Fool them once shame on you, fool them twice shame on them. The students are no fools and the shame is all yours.

It is less than three weeks to Christmas. Families have scrimped and saved to provide for their loved ones over the holiday period.

So many people don’t have much now, but they still have pride – in themselves, in their families. People still have a sense of what is right, of what is fair and just.

People know that they were had at the last election.

The need to take tough decisions is a constant refrain of this government.

Tough for who?

You confuse hard decisions with bad decisions.

You constantly look for the soft options, for soft targets, as you would see them.

The spectacle of a government that talks tough when punishing its own people and yet time and again returns home from European Council meetings with its tail between its legs is truly pitiful.

It is unworthy of those that you represent.

Have you had the tough talk with Angela Merkel? Or with the lads from the Troika? Have you told them that we cannot and should not be expected to pay the debts of others?

No you have not. You try to disguise your lily livered, gutless interaction with our EU partners with guff about repairing our ‘international reputation’. Give us a break.

If you are unable to secure a deal on the debt burden, on the Anglo promissory note, if you are incapable of deficit reduction that doesn’t crush low and middle income families- then you are not up to the job of government.

It is actually that simple.

You are now twenty months in office.

This is your second budget.
There is nowhere for you to hide. You choose the well-worn path of the Fianna Fáil gang that went before you.

You persist in their failures.

Fianna Fáil’s so called ‘National Recovery Plan’ contained many of the deeply unfair and damaging measures you have introduced since entering Government.

Fianna Fáil brought this state to its knees. Now you, in Labour and Fine Gael keep it there.

Fianna Fáil sheltered the rich, protected wealth, insulated privilege.

Now you follow suit.
Your choice is to protect those at the top and punish the rest.

Don’t come into this Dáil again and waffle about fairness.

You are not fair.

You couldn’t handle fairness.

Your budget is testament to that.

Connect with Sinn Féin