Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Gerry Adams: Statement on the Government’s Priorities for the Year Ahead

4 March, 2014 - by Gerry Adams TD

Fine Gael and Labour assumed office on the promise of a new way of doing politics but yet have compounded the worst excesses of their Fianna Fáil predecessors.

Speaking in the Dáil debate today on the ‘Government’s Priorities for the Year Ahead’ Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams slated the government’s austerity policies and accused Fine Gael and Labour of breaking elect ion promises.

The Sinn Féin leader accused the government of recycling the ‘same old failed politics and the same old way of doing business.’

The Louth TD said:

“The political choices a government makes are defined by its view of society, its ambition, its ideological anchor and the interests that it seeks to represent. In my view, the Government has made choices that are not in the interests of the vast majority of citizens. The Government is, therefore, making the wrong choices in contravention of the mandate it was given.”

Gerry Adams spelt out Sinn Féin’s alternative strategy:

“The Government could introduce a 48% tax on income over €100,000, raising €365 million. It does not do it. That is its choice. It could re-introduce the non-principal private residence charge at €400, raising €151 million. It does not do that.

“It could restore capital gains tax to 40%, raising €98 million. Again, it does not do that. It could increase capital acquisitions tax to 40% and lower the thresholds, raising €108 million. It could introduce a 1% wealth tax, even temporarily, on net wealth over €1 million.

“Sinn Féin has proposed that Oireachtas pay and allowances, including that of the Taoiseach and his Ministers, be reduced by 50% of all amounts over €75,000, and that of Deputies and Senators be reduced to €75,000 and €60,000. This would save €3.7 million. How many home help hours would that provide? How many resources would that provide for children with disabilities? How many medical cards would that produce?

“Sinn Féin has been robust in holding the Government to account and has been measured. At all times our approach has been to honour the mandate we received, to defend the interests of those on low and middle incomes, and to protect and support the most vulnerable of our citizens.

“We have sought to be constructive in opposition. We have put forward proposals which, unlike those of the Government parties, are based on fairness. We are trying to have a view of the social consequences of measures that are brought forward.

“Fine Gael and Labour assumed office on the promise of a new way of doing politics but yet have compounded the worst excesses of their Fianna Fáil predecessors.

“The old discredited way of doing politics continues with slightly different partners in Government. The explanation for all of this was given by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, when he said: "Well, you tend to say things like this during an election campaign."

“These comments may yet serve as the epitaph for this Government. It has been said that too many people do not see any improvement. That is because they have no improvement. In fact, they are worse off.

“The Taoiseach appears to have abandoned his proposal to produce report cards on the performance of Ministers. Given the way that Ministers have stumbled from calamity to controversy and back to calamity again, it is not surprising that there are no report cards. The Taoiseach used to say he had a five-point plan. Now he has no plan whatsoever and really no point.”

Change Cannot Be Stopped

The story of change is only beginning.

Sinn Féin will not allow Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to waste the potential, the possibilities and the aspirations of our people.

A government led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil together does not represent the change that people voted for in February. In fact, it is an attempt to deny change, to protect the status quo and to continue with the same broken politics that has so badly failed workers and families

Sinn Féin will defend the change that the people voted for. We will continue to stand up for workers and families.

North and south, Sinn Féin is that change for a fairer, stronger and united Ireland.

Fully Supporting our Health Service and Frontline Workers

We need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds, and that our frontline workers are protected.  We need more testing and tracing and we need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds. 

The lack of protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, carers and others is causing a lot of concern – with frontline workers taking to the internet looking for resources and the government have stated that homehelp workers don’t need PPE. 

We need to see delivery of more testing across the island to tackle COVID-19 in line with the advice of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Income Support - Protecting Workers & Families

Sinn Féin’s proposals in the south would have guaranteed 100% of income up to €525 a week for workers and the self-employed who are laid off due to this crisis.  The Irish government’s proposal comes nowhere close to that and does not go far enough. €350 is not enough for people who have lost their jobs. 

While we are supportive of the wage subsidy scheme we believe that it must be targeted and not open to abuse - employers should have to make up the rest of the 30% of the salary – under the Irish government proposal employers could put in just one cent towards their employees pay.

There are also outstanding issues including: will workers have to pay tax on this income, now or at the end of the tax year; can workers who reside in the north but pay tax in the south be able to access the PUP payment?

Protecting Workers, Families and Businesses in the North

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has introduced protections for workers, small businesses and is lobbying the British Treasury to support the self-employed. He has brought in rate relief, including a three month rate holiday for all businesses and grants to support SMEs.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has streamlined the benefit system to make it easy for those affected by COVID-19 to access benefits, including sick pay for workers.  She has also introduced support measures for the community and voluntary sector.

Affordable Housing

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver on housing. Their records speak for themselves.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering the largest housing build in the history of the State.

Sinn Féin's "Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill" would prohibit rent increases on existing and new tenancies for three years and end the practice of tenants being evicted from buy-to-let properties on the grounds that a property is to be sold. These are vital protections that people need now more than ever.

In the north, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has introduced measures to support those in the public housing sector and we have called for mortgage relief for homeowners and businesses.

Banks and the Insurance industry

It is outrageous that many people with a €200,000 mortgage will pay close to €2,000 more over the lifetime of their mortgage because the banks are not only charging interest but interest on the interest.  This is how the banks are intending to profit out of this crisis and it is outrageous. We want the Central Bank and the banks called in by the government and this to be stopped. We have been in touch with the Minister, the Central Bank and the banks on this. The fact is that they already charge twice the average EU interest rates for mortgage  - they need to waive all interest during the period of the emergency and not profit on it.

The behaviour of the insurance industry also needs to be tackled – they are failing to respond properly to this crisis.

The insurance industry is trying to find ways of avoiding providing coverage to businesses who pay very high insurance premiums and have been forced to close as a result of the crisis.  They need to be reined in by the Central Bank and taken to task over this behaviour. Nothing less than this is approach is required.