I was delighted to attend a breakfast last week organised by Grant Thornton and AIB. Pictured with Liam Doyle, Katie Hynes (on work experience with me) and Kate Shortt.
Budget 2019 was unveiled yesterday and Fianna Fáil will begin talks shortly with Fine Gael on reviewing the confidence and supply agreement and examining the potential for a new deal. This Budget is not a Fianna Fáil budget but it is one that contains some Fianna Fáil measures.
This Budget will be judged on whether it delivers better outcomes on housing and health, two areas beset with problems in this country. The number of homeless people in Ireland is a national scandal and so we welcome the additional funding allocated for the construction of social housing. The Fianna Fáil party also insisted on a major focus on Affordable Housing in this Budget to reverse the fall in home ownership seen in recent years. We secured a €300 million affordable housing package over the next 3 years which will make thousands of new homes available to eligible first time buyers. These homes will be sole at up to €50,000 below the cost of building the home.
Regarding the Health budget, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said that the health budget appeared to be completely crisis driven and chaotic. We secured an extra €20 million in funding to tackle waiting lists through the National Treatment Purchase Fund which is important progress. We need better accountability from the Department of Health given the size of its budget and the problems in service provision.
Given that so many of my constituents have links to the Defence Forces, it was also disappointing to see expenditure in defence as a share of national income will fall again next year. The Government had an opportunity in this Budget to improve the treatment of those in the Forces and did not deliver.
As Chair of the Education and Skills Committee I am also disappointed with the small increase in funding at primary school level. Post Primary schools got double the increase in school funding in monetary terms from the proposed increase in the capitation allowance. Primary school increase equates to 4.6 cent per pupil per day.
Following the frightening report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released this week, it is especially worrying to see the U-turn done by the Government on the carbon tax. Climate change is the most pressing issue facing our planet and is having a clear impact on this country with unusual weather patterns including drought, freak storms and heavier than normal rainfall. Budget 2019 is a do-nothing budget on climate change and demonstrates that this Government is incapable of showing leadership on this vital issue.