Sinn Féin publishes Bill to reduce costs of Tribunals of Inquiry

Sinn Féin TDs Jonathan O’Brien and Pearse Doherty have today published a Bill which seeks to reduce the costs of Tribunals of Inquiry including the one set up last week to look into the alleged smear campaign against Garda Whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Speaking today Teachta O’Brien said;

“The government has established a Tribunal of Inquiry rather than a Commission of Investigation into the alleged smear campaign against Garda Whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

“This is a decision that we welcome and last Thursday the Dáil passed the extended terms of reference for the Tribunal of Inquiry without opposition.

“While there was no opposition to the terms of reference, a number of Deputies raised the potential cost of a Tribunal given recent experiences with other Tribunals.

“While the Minister gave a commitment to examine whether that legislation could be progressed, Pearse Doherty and I have today published our own Bill, the Tribunal of Inquiry (Evidence) Bill 2017, which would address the issues of costs.

“We have submitted it to the Ceann Chomhairle today seeking leave to introduce it as soon as possible.

“We are hopeful that the Government will accept the Bill and allow its speedy passage through the Dail.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the Charleton Tribunal is allowed to do the important job of work it has been allocated without incurring the types of exorbitant costs which we have seen associated with past tribunals.”

Pearse Doherty TD says government has forgotten about mortgage crisis

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, has said the government has forgotten about the 80,000 families in mortgage arrears. He said the promises in the programme for government have been watered down, put on the long finger or simply dropped altogether.

Speaking at a Public Meeting in Swords organised by Louise O’Reilly TD, Deputy Doherty said:

“In December the Central Bank published its latest figures on mortgage arrears. A total of 79,562 (11 per cent) of accounts were in arrears. This is still a huge crisis happening day in day out for the thousands of Irish people affected, yet it barely gets a mention any more from the government!

“421 properties were taken into possession by lenders during the third quarter of 2016. That is over 4 homes a day being taken over. The government think this issue is gone away, they think it’s in the past. They are wrong.

“Promises to review the insolvency thresholds and set up a new Special Mortgages Court sit on the legislative programme 6 months after they were due to be published. A commitment that the Central Bank would amend the Code of Conduct seems to have been rebuffed altogether by Governor Lane.

“The Abhaile MABS service is up and running but is only scratching the surface in the number of people in arrears it has helped out. This government in permanent crisis has well and truly taken its eye off the ball when it comes to mortgages.

“Sinn Féin will put in place real solutions, not promises.

“We will protect the Family Home in law to a greater degree. My legislation to do exactly that was voted down in 2013. We also do not accept that vultures are part of the solution. If we can’t get rid of them they need to be taxed, regulated and not fed by the State’s own banks.

“The 80,000 families in arrears deserve to be front and centre in political debate. This is not an issue that has gone away.”

Zero tolerance for racism, sectarianism, homophobia, and for inequality as society moves forward – Pearse Doherty TD

Speaking on Saturday at the ‘New Generation: New Voices’ event in Enniskillen, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD, said that in an era of so-called ‘Post Truth Politics’, Sinn Féin did not accept contempt for the truth while in the Assembly, and would be damned if they would accept it from Enda, Fine Gael or his cohort of Fianna Fáil backers in the Dáil either.

The Donegal TD said:

“As we fast approach yet another election campaign here in the north, and perhaps in the south also, the political landscape is anything but certain.

“It’s a period which has been described by many social and political commentators and analysts alike as the era of ‘Post Truth Politics’. This is a political culture in which the political narrative is framed by strong appeals to emotion as opposed to reality by the repetition of unfounded assertions to which factual rebuttals are ignored, if not rejected outright, as irrelevant.

“We, as Republicans, do not buy into such lies, half-truths or disdain for truth…the very hallmarks associated with the particular way by which many of our political opponents care to do business.

“Sinn Féin does not and will not follow their example. Just as the events of recent weeks have shown, and as Arlene Foster and the DUP have witnessed first-hand, we did not accept contempt for the truth while in the Assembly, and we’ll be damned if we accept it from Enda, Fine Gael or his cohort of Fianna Fáil backers in the Dáil either.

“Here in the north, where the controversy over the DUP’s bungled handling of the RHI scheme, coupled with their persistent refusal to embrace equality of any kind, these are the events which have left citizens in the six counties disillusioned, weary and sceptical of the institutions’ ability to deliver real and effective change.

“Likewise in the south, where the shambolic handling by Government of the orchestrated smear campaign against Garda Whistleblower, Sgt Maurice McCabe, which over recent days has brought the current administration to the brink of collapse, there too citizens are questioning the role which government, or more broadly speaking, which politics in general can play in improving society and the lives of ordinary people.

“And these are the very same forces who, motivated by hatred and driven by ignorance, have recklessly stood and advocated for this part of our island to be dragged, against the will of its people, out of the European Union. In doing this they are showing they are happy to deny you and the generations to follow the very same opportunities enjoyed by those of us who’ve long benefitted from access to a continental community of some 500 million people.

“Our young people deserve better. They deserve to live in a society, not where their life prospects and future successes are reliant on whether or not they have the means or financial wherewithal to afford it, but one in which everyone, no matter whom they are or where they’ve come from, enjoys the equal opportunity to go out into the world and make their dreams a reality.

“It’s about moving forward as a society, where zero tolerance for racism, sectarianism, homophobia, and for inequalities of any kind is the sole and accepted benchmark.

“It’s about choosing a path which ensures that the institutions, even with their imperfections, deliver for each and every citizen on the basis of equality, parity of esteem and mutual respect.”

All-island economy ‘pragmatic, principled, achievable’ – Pearse Doherty TD

Speaking in Belfast this morning, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD outlined Sinn Féin’s plan for an all-island economy in the context of the challenge of Brexit. Joined by Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Deputy Doherty said that “this is an unprecedented, if not all but unthinkable, challenge that requires an unprecedented response in terms of making the border less and less relevant”.

The Donegal TD continued:

“For our part, the best approach for facing that challenge is the further development of the all-Ireland economy; a concerted political and civil society campaign to ensure that the north achieves a special status in the EU, and an all-Ireland based infrastructure plan on which a modern all-island economy can prosper and thrive.

“Sinn Féin has produced detailed policies in this regard and for which we seek support from across the island.

“And it’s important to stress that this all-island economy is not some abstract concept; it is pragmatic, it is principled, and it is achievable.

“Businesses and entrepreneurs recognise the value of the all-island economy; through creating jobs, growing their businesses, and by taking advantage of markets on both sides of the border, much can and has already been achieved.

“Sinn Féin rightly believes that the only credible approach is for the north to be designated a special status within the EU, and for the whole island of Ireland to remain within the EU together.”

EU Commissioner demolishes Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s arguments on Apple tax – Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called on the government not waste taxpayers money on an appeal against the EU Commission’s decision regarding the Apple Tax scandal following the appearance of Commissioner Margrethe Vestager before the  Finance Committee today.

Deputy Doherty’s call came after Commissioner Vestegar robustly defended her judgement that €13billion plus interest of back taxes is owed to Ireland by Apple.

He said:

“Following Commissioner Vestegar’s appearance before the Finance Committee, it is absolutely clear that the government must not proceed with wasting taxpayer’s money appealing the EU Commission’s decision.

“Point after point put up by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil around so called fantasy money, Ireland acting as a tax collector for the world and arguments around selectivity and tax sovereignty were not only dismissed but destroyed by evidence from the commissioner. Both parties engaged in a concerted effort to misinform the Irish public that this back tax was not due to us, which is shocking.

“It’s is clear from the Commission’s 130 page report, that they have left no stone unturned in arriving at the decision. The report is objective, well researched and the authors have shown a clear understanding of the minutia of Irish tax legalisation.

“Engaging the appeal process would be an abuse of public given what we heard in the proceeding of the committee today.

“Cutting through the technicalities, it seems hard to arrive at the conclusion that the EU Commission believes what happened was a misunderstanding or a misapplication of procedure. Rather it appears to me that the Commission is suggesting a calculated, contrived and unique arrangement was put in place to favour Apple at the expense of other companies such as indigenous companies.

“It beggars belief that the government would fight this case, which is clearly watertight.

“The government should immediately stop it’s wasting taxpayers money on the appeal process, from which the only winners seem will be the lawyers and accountants paid by the State.

“This debacle centres on a dodgy deal whereby Apple were able to decide what tax they would pay on an arbitrary basis, with no scientific basis or accordance with Irish tax legislation.

“It is now time for government to stand-up for citizens and ensure that the money owed to the state is paid without obstruction or necessary delays.”

Nearly 70% of debtors who exited NAMA have paid less than half their debts – Pearse Doherty TD

Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said figures released to him show that 68% of debtors who have exited NAMA did so having paid off less than half their debts.

Deputy Doherty said: “New figures I have received from the Minister for Finance show that nearly 70% of the 505 debtors who have exited NAMA have done so having had more than half their debt still owed. These debtors originally owed €27.3bn although NAMA would not have paid significantly less than that price. Of that debt only €14.9bn has been recovered.

Pearse Doherty TD

“NAMA’s mandate is to recoup as much money as possible from its debtors for the Irish people. Shockingly 51 debtors exited having paid 10% or less of their debts while 225 debtors paid off less than 30%.

“That is a far cry from the Brian Lenihan commitment that debtors would pursued ‘to the ends of the Earth’. The NAMA strategy, under direction from the Minister, to offload assets earlier than originally planned means that, in many cases, it has been the vulture funds that have benefitted from repayments from these debtors in a recovering property market.

“That strategy is now in question more than ever before. Sinn Féin is calling for a freezing of NAMA sales until a new policy is developed which will make sure the taxpayer receives the maximum value from what is left on NAMA’s book and which mandates NAMA to play a serious role in solving our housing problem.”

Note: Please see the PQ in question below


QUESTION NO:  111

DÁIL QUESTION addressed to the Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan)
by Deputy Pearse Doherty for WRITTEN ANSWER on 25/01/2017

“To ask the Minister for Finance the number of persons and corporate entities debtors whose total repaid debts upon exiting NAMA were at certain loan book values (details supplied) with regard to NAMA debtors that have exited the agency up to January 2017, having repaid their debts to NAMA, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

REPLY.

I am interpreting the Deputy’s question as requesting the number of NAMA debtors who have exited the agency organised by reference to the amount repaid at the time of exit from NAMA as a percentage of the total par debt owed to NAMA.  In this regard, I am interpreting your reference to “total original loan book value” in the details supplied to the question as the total par debt owed to NAMA at the time NAMA acquired the loan.

I am also interpreting “exit from NAMA” to include both the establishment of a final agreement with NAMA or the sale of the loan.  The percentages provided reflect the amounts which had been repaid to NAMA as a percentage of the original amount owed to NAMA and are calculated at the time a final agreement was reached with NAMA or at the time loans may have been sold by NAMA (i.e. loan sale proceeds are not loan repayments.)

The Deputy will be aware that NAMA originally paid €31.8 billion to acquire a loan book with a par value – that is an outstanding borrowed amount – of €74 billion, comprising 779 debtor connections.  These loans had a market value of €26.2 billion, roughly 35% of par.

It was never envisaged that NAMA would recover anything close to the €74 billion par value of the loans.   The average discount was 57%.  However, the acquisition discounts varied significantly depending on the underlying quality of the assets.

I am advised that, as at 31 December 2016, 505 debtor connections with a par debt of €27.3 billion had exited NAMA. This comprises debtor connections who had reached a final agreement with NAMA and debtor connections whose loans had been sold. I am further advised that in 61 cases, debtors repaid 100% of the original par debt. In total, the 505 debtor connections have repaid €14.9 billion to the Agency, that is roughly 55% of the original par debt. A breakdown of debtor connections that had exited NAMA by end-December 2016 is presented in the table below.

 

Debtor Connections Exited NAMA
% of Original Par Debt Repaid Count
=100% 61
>=90% 13
>=80% 11
>=70% 23
>=60% 20
>=50% 31
>=40% 53
>=30% 68
>=20% 82
>=10% 92
>=5% 38
<5% 13
Total 505

Pearse Doherty Budget 2016 Speech

Pearse Doherty Budget 2016 Speech

Despite all the promises, the rhetoric and the spin of the last few weeks what you’ve presented today Minister is the epitome of the boom bust politics of the past.

The cut to the USC and changes to PRSI will put more than three times more in the pocket of someone earning €70,000 a year compared to the average worker. For those earning €25,000 you are giving them a meagre €227 annually yet for individuals earning over €70,000 you’ve put over €900 back into their pockets.

By reducing Capital Gains Tax by 13 percentage points for some over night and reducing tax on wealth this government has hallowed out the tax base for the long-term.

You truly have stolen Fianna Fáil’s clothes Minister. This is the kind of giveaway Budget that Charlie McCreevy himself would be proud of.

By reducing the USC in an unequitable way, cutting CGT and raising the threshold for CAT, and reducing corporation tax, you are hollowing out the tax base for the long term- reducing the state’s coffers by 882 million euro – and you are doing so in a manner that is deeply dishonest.

Nuair atá tusa ag caint faoin faoiseamh seo atá á tabhairt agat do pinsinéirí nó do tuismitheoirí atá ag tabhairt aire do leanaí le míchumais diana, níl tusa ag insint dóibh an fhírinne ná nach bhfuil rún agat na tacaíochtaí seo a chur ar fáil go fadtéarmach.

That is the folly of boom bust politics.

You have set your face against meaningful long-term investment in Ireland’s infrastructure and frontline services.

This means your growth policy is just not credible.

Today you tell us that your ambition for frontline services is that they make do with what they have, and you stand over your policy to starve health, education and childcare of the resources necessary to deliver public services we can be proud of, and that are conducive to growth.

Today’s budget hold no resemblance to the Proclamation or to the Democratic Programme.

You have not delivered equal rights and equal opportunities to all Ireland’s citizens, in fact you have resolved to only pursue the happiness and prosperity of the top 14% – stuffing €181.9 million into her pockets through USC reduction throwing a few crumbs from the table to everyone else

This is not the future that the women and men of 1916 envisioned for their country.

Today’s budget offered this Government a real opportunity to finally break from the failed politics of the last 20 years, instead you have copper-fastened it.

Taxation measures

You’ve increasing the threshold of inheritance tax to €280,000, one of the few mechanisms in the taxation code to capture wealth.

Let us be very clear about who benefits in the main from this budget.

Fifty per cent of workers in Ireland earn €28,500.

So when you tell us that your budget seeks to alleviate the taxation pressure on salaries of around €70,000 what you are in fact telling the people is that this budget is targeted towards the top 14 per cent of earners.

There is a deep inequity in Ireland’s taxation system.

€181.9 million of tax reduction are going to the top 14% of earners.

The bottom 10 per cent of earners spends 30 percent of their income on direct and indirect taxes. The top ten per cent spend 29% of their income on direct and indirect taxes.

This is the outcome of your previous budgets where you moved taxes on income to flat indirect regressive taxes.

It is because of this deep inequity that Sinn Fein has committed to ending the water charges and abolishing the family home tax.

Tá ceann amháin de na rátaí pá is isle againn anseo in Éirinn sa domhan forbatha, agus tá tearcfhostaíochta agus neamhshláine post le feiceáil go forleathan.

The best you could rustle up for the low paid is a meagre increase of 50c in the national minimum wage and you remain mute on the need for a living wage.

In real terms there has been no increase in the Minimum Wage since 2007.

Sinn Féin would increase the Minimum Wage by €1 per hour bringing a full time minimum wage up to €19,572 a year, and we would increase employee and employer PRSI bands in line with this increase.

We support the introduction of the Living Wage and as the largest employer the state should lead the way. We have provided for the introduction of a Living Wage across the civil service, and want to see this extended across the public sector as well as all commercial and non-commercial semi-state bodies.

It is a nonsense for anyone on the government benches to claim that this budget is a budget with families and small businesses in mind.

It is budget for the elites, for multi-nationals and high earners. It is anti-sustainable growth, it is anti-investment, and its anti-public services.

Fiscally reckless

It is also fiscally reckless Minister. Ireland has one of the lowest tax to GDP ratios in Europe.

That is why we have low investment in public services and higher costs of living. You like Fianna Fáil have increased out of pocket expenses for families and in many instances have placed basic services and fundamental needs out of reach for whole swathes of the population.

What more basic need is there than a home.

Last week a little girl was interviewed for a radio segment on family homelessness. In describing her experience of living in a B&B she said – “I don’t like it here. I’m not looking forward to Christmas. I don’t know how Santy is going to get in, and I dunno where we are gonna go.”

The interviewer then asked her what it is like in her head when she wakes up in the B&B in the morning.

The little girl replied, “Well, sad and worried. And I feel like, bad, cause when you are just going down for breakfast you’re just sitting there with your Da eating your breakfast with no friends or anything.”

This little girl is not alone. There are 1,500 homeless children and their families who are living this experience every day.

One in eight children are now going hungry, are without warm clothes or are homeless or living in substandard housing.

So after waltzing in here Minister with a book full of measures that hallow out the taxation base and throw a few crumbs in the direction of our public services and infrastructure – spare a thought for this little girl, and the tens of thousands of children like her.

She is the direct consequence of your policies.

So what are the other outcomes of your policies Minister?

Child poverty has risen under your watch.

Income inequality has risen under your watch.

Family homelessness has risen under your watch.

You’ve even managed to bring the public health system to a new level of catastrophe.

There are record numbers waiting for treatment with 401,000 patients on the outpatient waiting list and 69,000 are waiting for inpatient or day case treatment.

300 patients are left languishing on trollies on any given day, and it is now the norm for children to wait two years to be assessed by a speech and language therapists, and there are up to 130,000 families on the housing waiting list.

Inequality is your badge of honour Minister.

Inequality is not just about the most vulnerable in society, it has a deeply damaging knock on effect for low and middle income families, as well as the wider economy.

Investment

Take the housing crisis.

This crisis is a grand culmination Minister of a failed government policy pursued by this government and the last.

You abandoned the provision of all housing to the private market with social housing completions as low now as they were in the 1930s.

This astonishing failure has resulted in an upwards pressure not only on supply but also on the costs of homes in Ireland, for rental and purchase.

Like so much of government policy you’ve failed to deliver a strategy that delivers a solution for all families, be they in need of social, affordable or private homes.

Tchíonn muid na fadhbanna ceanna sa chorás sláinte, agus nuair atá soláthar seirbhísí oideachais do paistí le riachtanais speisialta nó míchumais i gceist, tchíonn muid é seo arís maidir le curám leanaí inacmhainne agus inrochtana.

You have no ambition, no vision, and no hunger to deliver the type of transformative change that will improve the lives of all our communities.

On entering government you slashed the capital budget by €750 million, and despite the fiscal space available to you in 2015, and the economic environment to increase the tax base you have offered up a meagre €180 million extra in capital expenditure in next year’s budget.

Sinn Féin’s alternative

Sinn Féin has set out a very different vision to the Government parties and Fianna Fáil.

We want to deliver a fair recovery – one that invests in Ireland’s future for the long term and for the benefit of all.

We will deliver a recovery that ensures all children experience equality of opportunity be it in their education, in their access to supports and services and in their career choices as they pass into adulthood.

We want to grow an economy that is rooted in fair play. Where workers earn a decent wage and small businesses can flourish and expand.

This cannot happen by chance, and without a stable and fair tax base we cannot provide the necessary investments in education, childcare, health and infrastructure to secure stability and sustainable growth.

They’ll tell us they can take €882 million out of the tax base AND tackle hospital waiting lists, the prohibitive cost of childcare and provide long awaited mental health services.

This is of course rubbish. It’s the politics of old. It is as dishonest as it is wrong.

Sinn Féin’s Budget 2016 document sets out an ambitious alternative, because we are ambitious for what we can achieve in Government.

Unlike the parties who have held the reins of power in this institution equality is the cornerstone of Sinn Féin’s political and policy choices.

Societies that are more equal do better. Their public services are delivered more efficiently. Education is better. People are healthier. Income differentials are lower. Social cohesion is stronger. Taxation is fairer. Enterprise is more innovative.

The list goes on.

We want to stem the tide of mass emigration of our young people. A reduction in the USC will not in itself bring our young men and women back.

It is the lack of decent jobs and secure career paths, access to affordable housing and accommodation and the costs associated with health and childcare that continue to act as a barrier to their return.

And who could blame them.

Sinn Féin wants to take this challenge head on. We want to invest €1.7 billion in public services in 2016.It is only by tackling the underinvestment in health, tackling childcare costs and delivering affordable housing that we can entice our emigrants back.

CHILDCARE

We welcome the government’s decision to provide funding to deliver access to the free pre-school year for children with a disability, and the additional preschool year.

The free pre-school year is universal in name only as children with special needs are prevented from attending as the necessary supports are not provided. That is why Sinn Féin in its budget proposals has provided for 1,000 SNAs for the pre school year.

11 per cent of early-years services were forced to refuse a child with additional needs last year.

Our budget proposals also provided for an additional six weeks maternity benefit that can be taken by either parent, as well as two weeks paternity leave and an increase in Child Benefit. We welcome the fact that the Government has followed our lead in these measures.

EDUCATION

We must put investment in education centre stage. The Minister for Public Expenditure has the nerve to come in here today and trump up new teaching posts. The reality is he jhas allocated just €24 million in new spending measures. Everything else is demographics.

Year after year children and poverty agencies have highlighted the increased costs for parents to put their children through an education system that is supposed to be universal.

The damage this government has done to the education system is far reaching.

Over the course of your first three budgets you cut the education’s funding by nearly half a billion euro.

Cuts to resource teaching hours and guidance teachers have been particularly regressive hitting vulnerable kids the hardest.

You’ve hiked up the costs of third level education for struggling families by €750 a year; reduced the income thresholds for third level grants; you cut the back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance by a third for primary school children; introduced fees for apprenticeships and cuts funding to the third levels, VECs and a range of higher education bodies.

Sinn Féin would reverse the cut to Guidance teaching creating 700 additional posts, restore resource teaching hours providing 1,183 extra teachers for children with special needs and reduce primary class sizes putting 250 additional teachers into the system.

We would also increase funding to the school meal programme, the school book grants scheme and the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

We would reduce the third level contribution fee by €500 going some way to ensure third level education remains within the grasp of struggling working families.

HEALTH

In health you cut services by over €2.5 billion over the course of your first three budgets. Is it any wonder that the crisis has deepened across the system?

You’ve targeted mental health, children’s services and disability services, increased the threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme by 20%, increased prescription charges for the least well off, and cut front line posts by up to 10% and slashed regional drugs related initiatives by 12%.

Sinn Féin would invest an additional €383 million in health, ensuring this investment targets areas of most acute areas of need, above the amount needed to cater for demographic pressures.

We have provided for over 1,900 additional frontline posts including consultants, nurses, midwives, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and physiotherapists.

We also provided for an automatic medical card for children with significant medical needs arising from serious illness or disability, and invest in Emergency Departments, maternity care, mental health and disability services, dental care for workers and medical card holders, and increased emergency ambulance cover.

You’ve provided just 18m in new health spend when demographics and the pay restoration measures of the Lansdowne Road Agreement are accounted for!!!!

Garda numbers

Not a single new Garda was trained between 2010 and 2013. A paltry 200 new recruits were taken in last year and the numbers for the last two years won’t even cover the retirements. So 600 gardai in 2016 sounds like a lot but as the Minister herself acknowledged retirements are roughly 400 each year. Since entering Government the so called party of law and order has cut the strength of the Garda Síochána by nearly 10%. That is a shocking record by any standard.

Closure of Garda Stations saved less than 1 million euro.

Sinn Féin would invest in community policing by training an additional 1,000 Gardaí to ensure the strength of the force gets back to where it was before Fine Gael got its hands on the Department of Justice.

Tá na postanna úra seo i dtaca le Foireanna Túslíne, 6,500 ar an iomlán, tá siad i dteannta le na postanna a bhí de dhíth sa bhliain 2016. Tá €300 milliún curtha san áireamh sa pácáiste infheistíochta Shinn Féin le haghaidh athruithe déimeagrafacha a láimhseáil.

HOUSING

We also set out an ambitious capital investment of €400 million, two thirds of which is to be directed to tackling the housing crisis head on.

The additional €69 million announced today for housing by government is miserly, making it roughly just under a quarter of what you cut from housing budget in 2012. Again in 2013 you halved funding to local authority housing, and another 10% in 2014.

Minister, you and your colleagues have a neck to come in here with a tear in your eye after yet another homeless man has died on the streets of our capital city.

What exactly is it going to have to take before you acknowledge the scale and depth of crisis in emergency and social housing?

Sinn Féin understands the scale of the challenge ahead and that is why we have provided an extra €300 million investment for 2016 in social housing delivering 1,680 units in addition to existing government plans.

It is incredulous, and quite frankly disgusting for any government Minister to suggest that the state has a minor role to play in tackling the housing crisis.

This is not even an issue of EU fiscal restraints. If you declared a Housing Emergency flexibilities could and would be secured with our EU partners to enable the state increase its investment in social housing and emergency accommodation keeping us within the debt and deficit rules.

How many Jonathan Corrie’s have to die before you declare an Emergency Housing Crisis?

Rent certainty/Mortgages/NAMA

You haven’t even announced Rent certainty as part of the package today. In the meantime while you’ve fiddled around landlords have hiked up rents and 1,500 children and their families are now homeless as a result.

It is telling that despite all the fist waving and threats that again today we see the bank levy is not to be touched. Nor are we to have legislation to let the Central Bank set a cap on rip- off mortgage rates.

The message today for the 300,000 thousand mortgage holders with Standard Variable Rate mortgages is “you’re on your own”.

When I proposed legislation to allow the Central Bank cap mortgage rates you said “let’s wait and see”. Well, we have waited and we can see that the banks have barely nudged. You called in the troops to vote down my Bill but promised action would be taken. It hasn’t been. The bank levy will not be touched despite the increased profitability of the banks.

Only one lender has made meaningful reduction in its SVR. Now the Minister has given up and said people should shop around. You said if the banks didn’t budge you would increase the levy or legislate for a mortgage cap to be implemented by the Central Bank. You have done neither.

How can a family in negative equity just change lender?

As always the banks win, the people lose out. It is still Frankfurt’s way.

NAMA

You’ve announced a plan for NAMA to build houses like you’ve discovered the earth is round.

Welcome to what the rest of us have been calling for for years.

What is presented today illustrates another failure to tackle in full the housing crisis. There is no plan except to rely on developers. It appears that what is being proposed makes no provision for social or affordable housing.

Maybe you’ll listen to us now on the other policy measures we are proposing to deal with the housing crisis.

And then there is the crisis in domestic violence supports, which the government has not highlighted in its announcements.

Sinn Féin has also provided an extra €20 million for emergency homeless accommodation and €5.45 million for women’s refuges.

In July of this year Tusla reported that 80 per cent of women fleeing domestic violence were turned away from Dublin refuges in the first three months of this year.

Without these services, such as the Cuan Álainn refuge in Tallaght due to close by the end of the year due to a lack of funding by government, women and their children are forced into a stark choice of returning to an abusive and violent partner or become homeless.

INCOME INEQUALITY/SOCIAL PROTECTION

Income inequality has also deepened under Fine Gael and Labour. Of course we expected this of a Fine Gael government but for it to happen under a Labour coalition is astounding.

Labour has abandoned average workers and the vulnerable in equal measure.

We have a Labour Minister for employment who has refused to take action on low hour contracts, on the high levels of low paid insecure work,

A Labour Minister who has refused to even acknowledge the scale of bogus self-employment in the construction sector and has limited the work of the Low Pay Commission to focus almost solely on the minimum wage and not on the wider issues surrounding low pay and income inequality.

And then there is the Labour leader, who in her role as Minister for Social Protection regularly lectures us all on the deserving and undeserving poor.

She has set her sights on lone parents and the unemployed youth for particularly punitive cuts.

Unlike the Labour party Sinn Féin believes the vulnerable, the unemployed and low income households need support if they are to improve their circumstances in life, and that is why we have invested €289 million in tackling income inequality and providing employment activation measures that actually work.

Restoration of the Respite Care Grant cut is welcome but why did families have to endure the cut, and the myriad of cuts to social welfare and disability cuts in the first instance.

SUPPORTING BUSINESS

Ireland is a nation of small and micro-businesses with the majority of workers employed by these companies.

Government takes an either or approach to indigenous and FDI enterprise, and its enterprise and innovation policies lean heavily towards the multinationals’ at a cost to small business.

Microsoft Ireland is one of the largest exporters in the state producing €18.22bn in software exports, and it employs roughly 1,200 people in Ireland.

Irish food and drink exports were approximately €10.5 billion in 2014, yet this sector employs about 102,000 people.

Sinn Féin supports growth and investment in the FDI sector, however we need to ensure Ireland’s enterprise strategy accurately reflects where the potential jobs growth is.

Sinn Féin called for a €500 tax credit for the self-employed introducing a level of fairness for businesses be they farmers, carpenters or young entrepreneurs.

We welcome the government’s decision to introduce this credit.

We have doubled the trading online voucher scheme, dealt with the unfair exclusion of the self-employed from the Start Up Relief for Entrepreneurs, eased the administration of the tax system for businesses, provided support for Ireland’s indigenous craft beer sector and set out improved access to public procurement contracts for small and micro businesses.

We are the only party on the island pursuing a strong island economy to deliver greater cross border and export trade for Ireland’s small indigenous businesses, as well as the creation of a border economic development zone.

Conclusion

I’ll conclude with this Minister.

It is remarkable that after four and half years of deep cuts to education, to health, to social protection and increased unfair taxes targeting struggling families it is only in recent weeks that Labour has finally found its voice.

Not one of ye has had the courage of your party’s founding principles to stand up to Fine Gael’s conservative Tory agenda since entering government.

Instead you have become their greatest champions, and not for the first time.

What a difference a term in government makes.

In the closing days of the 2011 election Labour strategists reduced their entire campaign to a single message – elect us and in government we’ll soften the sharpest edges of Fine Gael.

Who can forget the Every Little Hurts advertisements?

Far from putting manners on your coalition partners ye have become more Fine Gael than Fine Gael themselves.

That is until it was your own head on the block – and lo and behold your glorious leader, Labour’s very own Countess of Grantham, is throwing her weight around like there is no tomorrow.

It appears your demands most moderate are, you only want to save your own hides.

Thousands of families have no roof over their heads, homeless people are literally dying on our streets, the health system is on the verge of collapse, child poverty is on the rise and a Labour coalition government has managed to deepen inequality on a scale not seen for decades.

Sinn Féin has set out a detailed and ambitious political alternative that puts investment centre stage – investment in services, in infrastructure, and in small businesses. All of this can be delivered through fair and sustainable taxation.

We hold dear the values and aspirations of the 1916 leaders, and we are committed to seeing them delivered upon in 2016.