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Government must stunt the growth of inequality in Ireland - Gallagher

26 November, 2004


Sinn Féin Councillor Felix Gallagher, speaking at the launch of the party's Pre Budget Submission in Blanchardstown has said, "the Government must use this budget to stunt the growth of inequality in Ireland".

Speaking from Blanchardstown he said:

"Numerous independent reports have shown that despite the increase in the wealth of this country, inequality has consistently grown under the present Government. Children and parents of young children have borne the brunt of this inequality. The 2002 Census shows that 32% of the population of Blanchardstown are under the age of 14, compared to 23.7% nationally. In areas such as Tyrellstown and Mulhuddart this figure is as high as 50%."

Sinn Féin's Pre Budget Submission is titled "Putting Children First" and is a mechanism to alleviate hardship and promote equality. The main points of the submission are:

Increase in Child Benefit to €150 per month for the first and second child and €185.50 for third and subsequent children. Child Benefit is recognised as the single most effective social welfare measure for addressing the needs of children. Such an increase would also assist working parents with the cost of childcare.

Comprehensive package of childcare measures, budgetary and legislative, implementing the right of all children to the best care, allowing parents to care for their children full time up to one year of age and equalising women's participation in the labour market.

Immediately extend medical card qualification to all under 18. Children are suffering most from the disgracefully low-income threshold for medical card qualification.

Improve funding for primary education, including school building programmes and schemes to tackle educational disadvantage.

"A study carried out by Local Employment Service Network showed that the two greatest barriers to re-entry to the labour market in disadvantaged areas were losing the medical card for children and inability to pay for childcare. A recent report by the Sunday Business Post showed that over a third of parents pay more each month in childcare than they do in mortgage repayments. As a father of two my monthly childcare bill is over €1,200. That is almost treble my mortgage.

The development of quality childcare can be self-financing through increased tax returns from those now able to take their place in the labour market and the savings made from social welfare payments. IBEC tell us that there is a labour market shortage and indeed the Tanaiste Mary Harney has travelled the world in search of workers to come to Ireland to meet this shortage. By making childcare affordable and removing the barriers to employment we can meet this shortfall.

In conclusion Cllr Gallagher said, "after seven budgets of inequality from former Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy, the Government must use this budget to stunt the growth of inequality in Ireland." ENDS

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