Wednesday 12 December 2012
“It is important to put the debate in context. When I listen to the largest Opposition party, in particular, it seems as if amnesia has set in. This is the party that took €16.50 a week from the disabled and the blind, those who required the most help from the State. Its members have come here tonight ready to cast their votes, but they have brought forward no propositions. I understand Deputy Willie O’Dea’s frustration and annoyance. If I was in his shoes, I would be the same.
I would be embarrassed. In its last two budgets before it left office Fianna Fáil slashed core weekly payments on which citizens relied. In our case, as a Government, we restored the minimum wage, maintained core weekly payments and have a plan to restore the country’s finances. That is why there is positivity regarding the 2,500 places available on the Tús scheme, which will increase numbers to 7,500. There are 2,500 new JobBridge places, which will increase the total to 8,500 and there are an additional 2,500 community employment scheme places, with 2,000 new places in local authority social employment schemes. These are to be welcomed. They are activating measures that will move people away from the hopelessness they feel and bring them towards measures which will enable them to find work in the future.
The Government has taken tough decisions. Unlike the second party on the Opposition benches, it does not bring with it a partition mentality on the island. I challenge Deputies Martin Ferris and Mary Lou McDonald. A true sense of republicanism——
The budget is one that many of us in the House would never wish to introduce because it impinges and impacts on people. Some €3.1 billion is not small change. However, the Government is committed to the renewal of the country. It is about creating a new Ireland, whereas the party on the opposite side which promised clever politics practises the same clapped-out type it has practised for 50 years. It is all about looking after its own and appealing to its support base.
That was Fianna Fáil’s way. For 14 years it led the people a merry dance. The problem is that they now recognise it is preaching more of the same.
Fianna Fáil’s record in government is that it got rid of the Green Party, buried the Progressive Democrats and could not cope with the Labour Party. Now it has nobody with whom to coalesce.
This is recognised by the people. I am out and about every day. I knock on doors and listen to people. Their message to me is: “You have been given a mandate to get the country back.”
That is what we are going to do and it requires tough decisions.
It requires political courage to make decisions that will in five and ten years give people hope and allow my nephews and godchildren the opportunity to live in this country, be educated, find a job and raise their families here. That opportunity has been lost for the past 14 years.
If one wishes to consider the voodoo knowledge of Sinn Féin, one should look at its propaganda leaflets and manifestos. One should look at what it is doing in government in the North. It says one thing up there but something different down here.
The Government has increased spending on carers by almost €20 million. This year we are spending €780 million on carers, €520 million on carer’s allowance; €23 million on carer’s benefit; €132 million on the respite care grant and €104 on domiciliary care allowance. Some 52,000 people are in receipt of carer’s allowance, whereas in 2001 there were 20,000.
This is about making decisions that will get people back to work and support an economy that is about the people. There is a focus on the respite care grant that many of us would prefer was not on it. This is not a cut that anybody in his or her right mind would make if it was a time of boom and bloom. However, it is a cut imposed on us because of the economic policies pursued by the Members opposite. I know and appreciate Deputy John Browne finds the narrative hard to take.
Thanks to the mandate of the Government the country will have its sovereignty restored. It will create jobs and is doing so now. More and more people are seeking to come to invest in the country. That is about a Government and the people working together. The budget will have an impact on the economic spend of the people. However, it has been framed with the overarching goal and aspiration of getting people back to work. If the Members opposite want to see Ireland fail, that is their business, but the Government is focused on driving reform, creating jobs and protecting the people.
Every day I meet people from all walks of life who tell me that we should get the country back on track and not to allow a situation to continue where we have to see our loved ones move abroad where there are jobs.
Every day the Government rectifies the mistakes made. It is committed to the task of rebuilding Ireland. It does not have one eye on the opinion poll and the other on the ballot box.
There were 14 years during which we saw this happen. There were greedy cuts and today there is this gargantuan hypocrisy. I understand the triviality and jocoseness of Deputy Willie O’Dea because I, too, would be ashamed of that record.
As a Government, we will prioritise the national housing strategy. We will look at the report on child benefit in order to see how we can change the body of social welfare payments.”