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Budget surplus must be used to tackle inequality

19 August, 2004

Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has called on whoever succeeds Charlie McCreevy as Minister for Finance to use the budget surplus expected at the end of the year to address the growing divide between the affluent and the less well off in Irish society.

Deputy Crowe made his call following reports that the Government's Economic Review and Outlook, due today, will show a healthy budget surplus of between one and two billion euro by the end of 2004.

He said:

"Some of this surplus is expected to come from the millions in unpaid DIRT taxes recovered by the Revenue Commissioners this year. It is only right that his money goes back into the community, helping to reverse the legacy of inequality that Charlie McCreevy is leaving behind.

"This state is lapsing in many sectors, but its biggest failing at the moment is the divide that is growing between the affluent in society and the less well off. The decision to make cuts in welfare and community enterprise schemes such as VTOS and FÁS, have contributed to this.

"As well as these direct attacks on the less well-off, the Government has also failed to come through on its own promises, made when it came to office. For example, it has now rescinded on its decision to increase child benefit over three years and is dragging out the increase over five years.

"The cost of living in Ireland is soaring. We have seen increases in all the essentials for living, like electricity and healthcare, but there have been no comparative increases made in any social welfare benefits. The most vulnerable in society, such as the elderly, the unemployed, and single parents, are being left to struggle with these increases with little or no help.

"I'm calling on the next Minister for Finance to use this budget surplus to tackle the policies that are breeding disparity throughout this state. This money must be used to roll back the community enterprise schemes, make immediate increases in social welfare benefits, reverse the savage 16 cuts imposed by Mary Coughlan, and to create a proper education service, all of which will help to close the gap between the rich and the poor." ENDS

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