Wednesday 19 December 2012
“This Private Members’ motion is extraordinary, to say the least. It does not address in any way the core problem the nation has of how to rectify our economic situation while recognising that the Government is spending an inordinate amount of money to fund our public services. We borrow €42 million per day. The Government has delivered a difficult and tough budget which ensures that those who can pay the most will pay the most. A total of €500 million extra will be paid by the high earners. This has not been recognised by the Members on the other side of the House. I have great respect for Deputy O’Brien, as he knows, but when Sinn Féin Members speak about social welfare or social protection, they fail to recognise that the Northern Ireland Government is doing the opposite to what they say.
The Fianna Fáil Party cut €16.50 from core social welfare payments. It baffles me to hear Deputy Martin speak on the Order of Business, given that he sat in Cabinet for 14 years and acquiesced to and supported the McCreevy-Ahern economic model.
He was a cheerleader for them. The Government protected core social welfare payments and ensured income tax rates remain the same. Yesterday’s economic figures indicate that light is emerging in a very dark period of our lives. There is much focus on the cut to the respite care grant, which is one many wish was not made. The grant is a once-off payment and is being reduced to the level paid in 2006 and 2007. I would prefer if the grant was not reduced but I recognise we have maintained the half rate carer’s allowance and the full carer’s allowance. This is to be commended. In addition, there is an increased tax take from high earners through an unprecedented means. Property tax will ensure those who are more wealthy will pay more than their fair share and unearned income will be hit for the first time. This is an unprecedented economic situation and there is an acknowledgement by the Government that the budget is difficult on everyone. We must ensure people are in jobs and we must create and retain jobs.
For the first time, the Government has published the national carers strategy, which recognises the valuable contribution of carers. We must acknowledge, pay tribute to and thank carers. This is a Government of renewal and it will create a roadmap for economic prosperity for the country. It will not be like the past, which was built on a false premise of property. The budget is about ensuring good governance and a new way of doing business, which will create jobs through attracting foreign direct investment. Those who can pay more will pay more.
Repairing and rebuilding our economy requires a sacrifice from all of us. We should show leadership from the top to the bottom. It is happening in our society. Some 40% of our budget is spent on social protection, which is an acknowledgement that the Government must protect and support some people. The budget is about getting our country back to work. I would rather see people in a job than idle and unemployed.”