It was clear that the Government did not want a proper scrutiny of the new property tax and the new powers extended to the Revenue Commissioners, Donegal Sinn Fein Deputy Pearse Doherty told the Dáil. The Government had not allowed the Dáil to debate “one of the most draconian pieces of legislation” it had ever seen, he said, which extended huge powers to the Revenue Commissioners to deduct a property tax from people’s salaries, social welfare payments, farm assist payments and so on.
“It is absolutely appalling that the same families that were hit by the reduction of €325 in the respite care grant will be hit by a property tax,” added Deputy Doherty. “The one in four households that cannot pay their mortgages and the families already in poverty will be slapped with this tax by the Labour Party and Fine Gael. It is another broken promise,” he said.
The proposal was not a property tax, claimed the Deputy. A real property tax would include all assets and stocks and shares. It would include homes, land, yachts and art collections. It would be a tax on wealth. “This Government is not in the business of taxing wealth or the wealthy. It is in the business of taxing those who are least able to pay. In many cases and for many people, this will be a tax on a liability, on a debt. The family home tax seeks to impose a charge on every single family home in the State. There are no exemptions for the one in four mortgage holders in mortgage distress.”
Deputy Pearse Doherty said there were other proposals that could have been considered during the Budget. “What about a gambling levy?” he asked. “When I was young, I used to walk to the bookmaker’s for my father to place a bet. If one bet €10, one had to pay a levy of 10%. Why not introduce a gambling levy of 5%? The Department has stated this would yield €265 million. Why ask people who simply cannot pay any more to pay more because they have a roof over their heads? It just does not make sense.”
Mac Lochlainn calls for Traveller rights
Donegal North East Sinn Féin Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (above) called on the Minister for Justice to introduce legislation recognizing Traveller ethnicity. Speaking in the Dáil following the Minister’s response that he had no immediate plans to introduce such legislation, Deputy Mac Lochlainn claimed there had been foot dragging on this issue for a long time.
“Coming from the Traveller tradition - my mother and grandmother are Travellers - it is critically important that we define the rights and responsibilities of the Traveller community,” he said. “This issue relates to their rights in terms of culture and their unique place in Irish society. When these have been firmly established and guaranteed, we can then deal effectively with the issue of responsibilities, as it applies to every citizen of the State.”
Democracy does not come cheaply maintains Harte
Getting rid of the Seanad might save money, but it would be like closing a town library, Senator Jimmy Harte told the Seanad. “It might save money but we must continue educating people.” One might save €1 million in a council area by closing some libraries but what is the real cost of such a move? There are people who would say that both the Dáil and Seanad should be closed. It may satisfy some people and save a few euro but the consequences would be catastrophic, maintained Senator Harte.
Democracy does not come cheaply, he added. “We are all aware of the cost of the Budget and the pain many people are feeling. As happened in the past, there was a certain constituency of people who said democracy was not working, but it was the road to dictatorship. We must continue with what we know as our democracy.”
Senator Harte said that efficiencies obviously come with the Budget, and as parliamentarians the Dáil and Seanad must welcome all such efficiencies, especially in the running of Parliament.