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Sinn Féin sets out detailed proposals to tackle growing inequality in Irish society

23 November, 2006


Sinn Féin Dáil Group leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD today set out detailed proposals to make a real, immediate and significant impact in narrowing the gap between rich and poor in Irish society, in tackling our unequal society. Among the measures put forward by the Cavan-Monaghan TD, at the launch of the party's pre budget submission 'Putting Low Income families first', were an immediate increase in the minimum wage to €9.30, keeping all those on the average industrial wage within the standard rate tax band and increasing the lowest rates of social welfare.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: "Every year Sinn Féin presents a pre-budget submission to highlight a specific area of concern we believe can, and must, be addressed in the Budget. This year our submission, containing our most comprehensive set of proposals to date, tackles the problems faced by low income families in Ireland today.

"Our proposals deal with three distinct areas: ending poverty for those in employment, increased social protections for those out of work or working in the home and helping those most in need to cope with rising costs.

"The fact is that nearly 14% of households in poverty are headed by someone in the workforce. This is a figure that has been increasing rapidly over the lifetime of this Government as wages have failed to keep pace with inflation, and workers have been hit hardest by regressive taxation and stealth charges. The minimum wage has failed to keep pace with rising costs. But even those earning more than the minimum wage are struggling to keep up in the face of spiralling costs.

"In this document we are proposing measures that would make a real, immediate and significant impact in narrowing the gap between rich and poor in Irish society, in tackling our unequal society. These include an immediate increase in the minimum wage to €9.30, keeping all those on the average industrial wage within the standard rate tax band, an increase in the lowest rates of social welfare by €35.50, the introduction of a Cost of Disability Payment as recommended by the NESC of €40 a week and extension of the medical card to all under the age of 18. We are also calling for Mortgage Interest Relief to be increased for first time buyers on or below the average industrial wage. We clearly identify where and how we will fund these proposals, and do so in a way that is progressive, and geared towards the interests of low income households.

"This document, Putting Low Income Families First, is a statement of intent. In the coming months we will be putting forward an alternative set of economic proposals, based around the interests of the majority of people in this country, around a taxation system that distributes the wealth to those who create it, and not those who profit from it, and that delivers quality public services ensuring that none of our people are left behind."

CRÍOCH

Key proposals:

· Increasing the minimum wage to €9.30 and keeping all those on this increased wage out of the tax net

· Keeping those on average industrial wage of €31,322.20 within the standard rate tax band of 20%

· Increase lowest rates of social welfare by €35.50

· Introduce Cost of Disability Payment of €40 a week

· Reform and expansion of the Maternity Benefit scheme and the introduction of Paternity Benefit

· Increase the maximum Mortgage Interest Relief available for first time buyers on or below the average industrial wage form €800-€1200 per annum for single people and from €1600 to €2400 for married /widowed people

· Reverse recent ESB hikes

· Extension of medical card eligibility to all under 18

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