News & Media

A two tier health system in a two tier economy - time for a New Social Contract

13 October 2020

Speech by Ged Nash TD
Spokesperson on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform

Speech by Ged Nash TD, Labour Finance spokesperson on Budget 2021. Check against delivery

We have known deadly disease on our island before.

In the 1800’s the Great Hunger saw millions emigrate or die, from famine but also diptheria, cholera, fever and smallpox.

In the last century, tuberculosis – TB - consumption, destroyed thousands of lives.

It may be folk memory now but its legacy lingers.

It took the vision of a socialist, Noel Browne to deliver the infrastructure and drive that tackled that insidious disease, but his vision of a social, public health system was blocked by vested interests. It has yet to be realised.

We must not repeat the same mistake made then, of not finishing the job. This emergency tells us we need to build an Irish National Health Service of which we can all be proud.

That work should have started today. Instead we are again papering over the cracks.

In times of crisis it is the State we turn to.

We still have some way to go on ending our two-tier health system.

But today I am just as concerned about our two-tier economy.

This government promised a shared future. Micheál Martin promised us an Ireland for all.

But instead we have two Irelands here today.

Billions of euros extra in supports for businesses.

But cuts for workers on the PUP and no shame about it either.

We were told there would be no cuts, but austerity is back for those who can least afford to carry it.

The time has come to reimagine this State.  

That’s why Labour has proposed a package of measures worth over €11billion in capital and current spending to plug the gaps in our services and to whatever it takes to save jobs and lives.

Unapologetically, our focus is on the interests of working people.

Right when we needed a radical response, a different approach, a shared national effort, the dividing lines have been drawn.

***

After four years of the on again, off again difficult engagement that was confidence and supply, we finally got the wedding ceremony in June.

Today the marriage was consummated - but the wedding speeches didn’t live up to expectations.

FF & FG has now become one. For better or for worse.

For the sake of the country I hope the next few months beats their disastrous ‘honeymoon period’ of self-inflicted cock ups and comical games of one-upmanship.  

***

We don’t need to do a deep dive through departmental records to uncover any major policy differences between the two Ministers who presented today’s Budget addresses. If we did, we wouldn’t be able to find them, because there are none.

So tight are you both policy wise that by the time this government is done we will wonder which one is which.

FF has been subsumed by FG. The merger is complete. FF’s identity is gone.

***

All of that being said, it would be churlish not to recognise that there is much in this package to welcome.

Who does not want to see extra resources targeted at health, housing, education and wage supports?

The question is, will it be enough to stave off the twin threats of Covid-19 and a no trade deal Brexit?

The national credit card is being maxed out, but where is the money going. There is no shortage of cash, but we know you will come up short on implementation.

And will this package be sufficient to insulate our economy against future shocks and reshape our society and our economy into one that is more resilient and fairer?

We know that the pandemic has exposed massive gaps in our health service.

Just a matter of months ago, a chronic lack of ICU and acute beds saw us go cap in hand to the private sector to get access to beds we didn’t have for fear our health service would be overrun.

If this does not force this House and this government into a radical rethink of our priorities as a country, then I worry for our future.

Last March, it wasn’t Michael O’Leary and the captains of industry who rode to our rescue. He was too busy flying people to Cheltenham in the middle of a deadly pandemic.

It was the doctors, nurses, HCAs, porters, home helps, shop workers, bus drivers, teachers teaching our kids via Zoom who all battled to keep us well and our society and economy moving.

It was the State we turned to, to protect us and keep us out of harm’s way.

Only the State had the authority, the skills and the resources to respond to the scale of the unprecedented emergency we faced and will continue to face into 2021.

It was to the State that private businesses turned to provide a lifeline and support enterprises and jobs in a way that would have been simply unthinkable even at the start of this year.

In doing so, we avoided turning a crisis into a catastrophe.

Ministers, this pandemic should be an inflection point, a turning point for our country. A point at which we say there should be no going back.

  • No going back to poor levels of investment in public services compared to our EU peers.
  • No going back to a model of low pay and uncertain work.
  • No going back to the precarity of being a missed shift or two away from eviction.
  • No going back to a reliance on the private sector to provide education for our toddlers and care for our parents and grandparents.

It’s time for a new social contract for the Irish people.

It goes to show how things have changed when even IBEC see a future where the State is bigger, where it does more, and where those costs will need to be met.

The last few months have shone a light on some uncomfortable truths. A health service that struggles despite the best efforts of our health workers. Weaknesses in our private model of early years education. Huge over-dependence on the private housing and rental market to put a roof over low paid workers heads.

Will Budget 2021 mark an important milestone on the way to a better, fairer and more sustainable Ireland?

It should but I doubt it will. On today’s evidence, it seems to me that it may very well be back to business as usual for FF & FG once we get over this hump.

***

Borrowing to invest

International conditions have never been more favourable to borrow so we can invest.

Ministers you should dump your conservative instincts, pull out all the stops and invest multiples of the capital allocation you announced today on housing, health, education now.

It is time, as Chris Johns wrote in yesterday’s Irish Times, “to show truly radical solidarity with those who through no fault of their own are suffering the most”.

Every single discussion I have had with a journalist in the last few weeks asks me; how are we going to pay for all these things you say we should do?

Like any prudent and sensible business or household we borrow now to build back better for tomorrow.

Yes, we were all seared by the experience of the last crash, a crisis that was caused by lax regulation of banks and a property and credit orgy not seen anywhere in the world.

The response to the last crash from the international community and the lenders of last resort meant that the 2008 crisis lasted longer that it should have.

FF and the GP signed us up to a programme of tough medicine.

Lessons from the international response to the last crisis should be learned and they should be applied.

The actions of the ECB has meant that just last week Ireland could borrow €1.5billion at negative interest rates last week on a ten year bond.

Covid-19 has few silver linings. But the one saving grace is the cheap long term borrowing that’s available to us.

Even the IMF is telling the world to invest in capital projects. And now.

We cannot fight this war with old weapons from the last one.

As Keynes said; “the difficulty lies not in the new ideas but in escaping from the old ones.”

This government must be ambitious for Ireland. To invest in building homes, schools, hospitals, colleges, Metro Links and other important pieces of infrastructure is the prudent and sensible thing to do right now.

Let’s do whatever it takes to maintain jobs and incomes. Instead, you are doing as little as you can get away with.

A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT

This Budget in the view of the Labour Party should be the first step on the road to a new social contract forged between citizens and the State.

We will judge it on three bases;

  1. Does this budget do enough to protect workers, families and communities in their hour of need?
  2. Will if fulfil the key role of the State in looking after the health and wellbeing of our citizens?
  3. Does it usher in a new era, a new social contract, a move away from the tired FG/FF offering of tax cuts and poor delivery on housing and health?

On workers & families

Hundreds of thousands of families are watching this afternoon for signs of hope for the future.

Some may be watching in as they work from home. They might be working for a successful MNC and thankfully they are doing relatively well. Their performance has been a saving grace for our economy. That advantage must be protected and built on.

Others who are watching may have worked in a pub or restaurant all of their lives. They used to be at work at this time of the day doing a job they loved. They lost their job through no fault of their own or the business that employed them. They need our support. They are the victims of the two-tier economy.

The best way we can provide certainty to workers and businesses at this anxious time is to provide security that the wages will be paid. There can be no cliff edge when the wage subsidy scheme expires in March. Ministers have signalled today that they will provide support for wages in challenged businesses beyond next April. This is good, but we need to do more.

We can use such investment in enterprises and workers to drive change. To improve business models. To upskill workers. To enhance pay and the performance of our economy more generally.

This is the time to do radical things. To spend money correctly to keep people in work. We know it is easier to maintain a job than create a new one.

That is why Labour has proposed a new wage subsidy and short time work scheme called Obair Ghearr. It is based on the German Kurzabeit model that saved half a million jobs in the last crisis.

We should use the money allocated to the EWSS and add an additional €2.7billion from the Brexit and Covid contingency fund to fund such a lifeline for business and workers. This can and should become a permanent feature of the labour market. Minister Donohoe admitted to me two weeks ago at the BOC that, of this scheme were in place as the crisis took hold, then we could have saved thousands more jobs and businesses.

I get that your plans to cut the VAT rate for hospitality might be politically popular, but experience tells us that this initiative will not do what you seem to think it will.

Again, this is not 2008 or 2011. Hospitality does not have a demand problem. It has a confidence and public health problem. There is an additional €7billion saved in Irish bank accounts by those who are at work. Keep hospitality alive with business grants the likes of which form part of today’s package and an enhanced wage subsidy scheme.

The money is there. It’s just that the conditions to spend it aren’t.

The VAT cut proposed runs the risk of becoming another deadweight policy. Spending a couple of billion here and there to promote economic activity that would have happened regardless. It is also worth recalling that the last VAT cut to 9% did little for low pay in the sector and it did not bring savings for customers. It fed the profits of a sector where workers are three times more likely to be on the NMW than any other sector.

If you are determined to do this, then make the cut contingent on engagement by the sector in the JLC they continue to veto. This is how an activist State drives change and positive outcomes for the common good.

It baffles me that we can spend billions on State support for business and pay no interest in changing the lives of those who work in those industries for the better.

Look at the €50m a week new Business Support Scheme you propose. This is the equivalent of a full €350 PUP payment for 150,000 laid off workers.

Almost uniquely in Europe, this government and its predecessor has chosen to pump limitless amounts of cash into businesses without any conditions around improving the lives of workers. Again, scant evidence that we are all in this together.

Ministers, 40% of young people who are not in education or training are unemployed. Given the pressure under which the sectors they work are in, there are few options available to them.

We know the scarring effect that unemployment has on younger people. The experience stays with them forever.

They cannot emigrate. They currently have few opportunities here. Give them hope of a better future. Do not leave them behind. We must declare war on youth unemployment.

We may have to accept that many jobs that were lost will not come back. We say invest now in almost 30,000 new jobs and training places in green tech, retrofitting, engineering and so on and deepen and broaden the spectrum of apprenticeship, traineeship and education places today.

Give them the kind of chance I had in the 1990s, the chance to be the first member of my extended family to attend university thanks to the reforms and free fees brought in by Niamh Breathnach. We proposed spending €80m knocking €1,000 off the student contribution charge. You should do the same Minister on the way to a fully publicly funded third level system.

It is distressing that you have chosen to deprive workers of the full rate of the PUP. If €350 was the floor in March, it should be the floor of decency now too.

You gave told us that the PUP will be available for arts workers and those who are self-employed operating in the arts and entertainment sectors and other exposed sectors.

Your scheme will be given a cautious welcome but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. If we do not get this right we are in danger of losing an entire cohort of artists and an infrastructure built up over decades.

The reality of life for, let’s say a sound technician is they might get a gig now and again for €1,000. In this climate this might be the only work they will get for a month. Will they be allowed to average this out over a period of weeks to enable them to stay within the eligibility criteria?

Furthermore on the PUP, will you just pay it to anyone who happens to lose their job and is on the payment at Christmas time. And can we also drop the name, Christmas Bonus. It is patronising and suggests that someone who depends on the State for their income should be grateful for an extra weeks payment at a challenging time of the year?

There is a lot of talk about flattening the debt curve but what about the poverty curve?

This budget will not go down well with Continuity Fianna Fail.

One of your many former agriculture Ministers wants the PUP to go back up. His retreat to the backbenches has coincided with a new-found concern for the jobless. It’s a pity he couldn’t find his voice when the Cabinet of which he was a member agreed to slash the payment in July.

I agree with Willie O’Dea when he said you cannot cultivate social solidarity if you’re implementing cuts to people on already low incomes.

Those fine words from the keepers of the FF flame who are self-isolating on the backbenches won’t pay the rent for the 25,000 young people on the €203 lower rate of the PUP, for example.

Turning to your approach to social welfare, it seems that you both believe there are two categories of citizens on social welfare. The deserving and the undeserving.

I agree that those who are living alone require enhanced support. But all of those who are on fixed incomes do too.

Unlike FF, FG and even SF, we believe that all of those on weekly social welfare payments should see a rise of €5 per week. That includes pensioners.

We propose this because of the threat of rising food and utility costs as a result of a no trade deal Brexit. The impact of this on the ability of a welfare recipient to make ends meet will be very real, though you haven’t accommodated this reality in your allocations today.

You failed to address the real needs of carers in this society. The unsung heroes who keep their loves ones at home and care for them night and day because they love them. It’s time we start showing them some love by recognising the work they do. This gear was the year you should have gone to town on the income disregard and provided the carers grant to all. Another missed opportunity to recalibrate this unequal society of ours.

We had fine words from the Tanaiste about the value we placed on lower paid workers who kept the health service and our shops open when the first wave hit.

These were empty words, Ministers. A candle in the window as a tokenistic mark of gratitude will not heat the homes of those on the NMW who will only receive an extra 10 cent an hour increase to their hourly rate of pay next year. Virtue signalling from Leo Varadkar won’t put food on the table.

A government that genuinely believes we are all in this together did not have to accept the recommendation of the LPC. But you did and you have turned your back on those you applauded. This is not the start of a new social contract. It’s just business as usual.

Where was the Green Party when this memo came to the Cabinet table?

The shows when push comes to shove they cannot be counted on to stand up for ordinary low paid workers despite all their talk of social justice.

Should we be surprised? The Greens have form here. When the last crash hit, the first thing they did was slash the NMW by a euro an hour. It did not create one single job – all it did was drive the working poor further into penury.

It is also many of these low paid workers to whom this government continues to deny a right that almost every other European takes for granted – the right to statutory sick pay.

If this is a Covid Budget, where is the right to sick pay? You are throwing money at the business sector with grants, reliefs, wage schemes and the like yet you are washing your hands of sick workers.

87% of the public supports Labour’s statutory sick pay Bill and the acting CMO has spoken about the importance of decent sick pay as a weapon against the virus. You have kicked this down the road for at least another six months when we need it now. Labour has proposed that we make illness benefit available after the second day at a cost of €70m and we have suggested a levy on the meat sector to fund sick pay. Action is needed now on sick pay, not next year when we could have a vaccine available before a sick pay scheme. This is a shameful state of affairs.

I also note that you have allocated monies to delay some monies to merely delay the rise in the pension age to 67. Where is the Josbseekers Transition payment? I can’t see the money for that. You haven’t even done half the job. We do not want this delayed or deferred. It should be dumped. Taken off the agenda. The legislation should me amended. End of story. Otherwise this will create a cliff-edge every year for hardworking people who should be entitled to retire when they originally expected to.

Much, much more could have been done in this budget to genuinely make life better and more hopeful for the lower paid and for those who rely on this State for their incomes. This budget begs the question; are we all really in this together?

The pandemic has shown that the chickens have come home to roost because of years of under investment in public services.

Ireland has the lowest level of critical care beds in Europe, the lowest level of hospital consultants, and the highest waiting lists, with currently 843,363 people waiting for care.

Despite years of delays regarding the implementation of Slaintecare, we were able to effectively nationalise private hospitals practically overnight in March when we feared the worst.

We need a healthcare system that only works not only in a time of crisis, but works for everyone all the time.  We should not wait another 5 or 10 years for a change that we now know can and must happen now.

***

During the first few months of the COVID-19 outbreak, you spent a massive €115m per month on private hospitals which were only run at just one-third of capacity

Rather than outsourcing our healthcare system to the private sector, the State could have stepped in to directly nationalise at least two private hospitals for an estimated €450m (as set out in Labour’s Alternative Budget).

This would have been a bold but necessary first step towards a single-tier public Healthcare System that serves everyone and deliver on a vital component of a new social contract for the Irish people.

And it would have assured the necessary capacity in our hospitals this winter as we face into a second surge of COVID-19.                                                  

***

But there is also a risk of another surge – an ‘apocalyptic’ surge in the non Covid-19 waiting lists and subsequent non-secondary deaths. We have warned you al of this.

Since March, too many people have suffered due to the inability of our health service to cope with the pressure.

We know that timely treatment of patients is crucial in term of survival rates for a whole host of conditions – including cancers, stroke and heart disease.

Yet the Government has not done enough to ensure screening services remain open or reduce sky-high waiting lists.

In our alternative Budget, Labour put forward €35m in additional funding for cancer services, cancer screening and the cardiac care backlog. We welcome the resources you will provide but implementation will be key.

***

Free GP care is also a critical component to early-intervention and prevention of COVID-19 and non-COVID illness. We made the important first steps but FG has dragged its feet on major extensions to this scheme.

Not only that, but universal primary care is significantly reduces heath services costs and inequalities while leading to better healthcare outcomes.

Yet, Ireland remains the only European country without universal primary care and one of the very few OECD countries without universal healthcare, which leads to worse medical outcomes and more pressure on our hospital services.

Labour’s €80m proposal for free GP care for U-18s would have gone some way to making this a reality, but BUDGET 2021 has fallen well short in this regard.

Nevertheless, the Government’s Winter Plan has finally acknowledged the need to treat people in the community as part of their winter plan.

Necessity however is the mother of invention.

However, such talk of community care is cheap when one in five primary care centres does not yet have a GP, while many more lack basic diagnostic equipment.

Labour’s own alternative budget set aside €40m to fast track community diagnostic and assessment hubs.

The Government must ensure the extra funding announced in today’s budget is prioritised towards the delivery of staff and diagnostics in the community setting.

A NEW SOCIAL CONTRACT - OR MORE OF THE SAME FAILED POLICIES ON HOUSING ETC

Nowhere has poor policy making and waste of public funds been more evident than in mismanagement of our housing market by both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

Any new social contract must finally address the running sore that has bedevilled our country for far too long and that is the issue of housing.

My parents – a factory worker and a confectioner on modest wages could afford to buy a home back in the 1970 and rear two kids in it.

They knew if they couldn’t get a mortgage that they could access a decent home from the Council.

Both of these aspirations we used to take for granted are unrealisable dreams for far too many now.

I have been a public representative for 21 years. Never before have I witnessed so much precarity and anxiety in relation to housing.

This Budget promises much on social and affordable housing but your track record of delivery warns us to be sceptical about today’s headline grabbing announcements.

To the end of June only 1,467 public homes had been delivered this year. This is shocking and does not inspire confidence at all.

There is simply no substitute for building the social and affordable houses we can call home.

You can and should go much further than you are prepared to today.

You should, as we have suggested build an extra 2,000 local authority homes next year on publicly owned land. That’s at least a thousand more than you have committed to in your revised NDP initiative.

You could also do as we suggest and provide another €500m for seed financing for at least 4,000 affordable rental homes and 4,000 extra affordable homes per year under our housing plan which envisages €16 billion being spent on 80,000 new homes over the next five years.

As a result of this budget we have seen the continued subsidising of inflated house prices and high earners through the continuation of a Help to Buy scheme. You should get rid of this scheme now.

The ESRI has called this a “poorly designed” scheme, while a 2019 analysis by the Parliamentary Budgetary Office showed that the pre-existing scheme generated a deadweight loss of over 41%.

Put simply, taxpayer’s money is being used to subsidise home purchases for those who can already afford to buy.

Yet, despite this evidence, the very first act of the new Fianna Fail Housing Minister was to both extend and enhance the level of subsidy provided under this failed scheme. This is reckless and plain stupid.

This isn’t a policy on housing. It’s a policy for developers.

Scrapping this policy alone would have saved €102m which could have been ringfenced for homelessness prevention measures or affordable homes.

Neither have we seen a new site value tax on underdeveloped land or a levy on empty houses of €200 as proposed by Social Justice Ireland.

It is estimated that these measures alone would have yielded €75m for local authorities in 2021, money that is badly needed due to the massive drop-off in commercial rates and cuts to LPT as implemented by Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

(In Labour’s own alternative Budget, we proposed an increase in the Vacant Sites Levy to 15% which would have raised an additional €36m, part of which could have been ringfenced to provide local authorities with the resources to register and inspect sites.

The Government also failed to introduce a surcharge on foreign vulture funds or increase the rate of Stamp Duty on Non-Residential Property.

The latter measure alone could have raised an additional €155m if increased by 2.5%.

Such measures would also have helped put a stop to vulture funds and speculators snapping up valuable commercial property in our cities and towns at knock-down prices due to COVID-19.

Nor did Budget 2021 attempt to adequately tax the profits of these vulture funds, such as by via increasing the Dividend Withholding Tax to 33% on REITS & IREFs which would have conservatively raised €18m.

We have seen that despite the pandemic, the rental income of the State’s largest commercial landlords has continued to soar.)

This shows yet again the Government’s failure freeze and cap rents – as first proposed by Labour before COVID-19 as part of our New Deal for Renters. Rent freezes are doable – just Alan Kelly.

Labour would have also provided a €15m rental arrears fund to help those through the worst of the crisis as part of our New Deal for Renters.

Our vision of a new social contract would not only have built more homes, but also sustainable communities.

Carbon emissions from Irish households are currently on average the highest in Europe, nearly 60 per cent higher than the EU average.

Home insulation is therefore the low hanging fruit of climate action that would benefit both the environment and households, particularly the lowest income households.

Yet rather than invest in home insulation, more than €120 million has already been spent on fines due to the Fine Gael’s failure to meet our EU climate targets.

The new climate gives us some hope that we will mend our ways.

The announced funding for retrofitting announced today is welcome.

On carbon taxes, Labour’s alternative budget proposed to ringfence part of the revenue from €10 increase - €2.50 more than the Government’s €7.50 increase - in carbon tax (€212m) to fund a National Home Insulation programme and just transition measures and ensure that the fuel allowance went up and was further extended by four weeks.

In addition, we would have provided a home retrofit incentive of €15m additional funding for the warmer homes scheme, increased the better energy grants to 50% at a cost of €31m

This would not only drastically reduce our climate emissions, but also cut our energy bills and create thousands of local construction jobs.

You have both managed to escape the gaze of the Dail in terms of the eye watering sums of money you have spent to take on Covid-19 this year.

IFAC, the PBO and others have criticised the fact that there has been little or no Dail oversight of your spending so far this year. Performance indicators have been dispensed with.

Trust us, you said. Fianna Fail has to earn our trust again and we know how wasteful that party can be with our money. We have lived with the consequences over the last decade.

From the figures you have mentioned today and the limited detail you made available, the National Recovery Fund stands well short of the €10billion multi-annual stimulus proposed by IFAC.

Any fund or stimulus needs to be big enough to make a real difference. This looks short of the mark and displays again a marked lack of ambition.

TAX

Let’s talk about tax.

And by god does this country need a grown-up conversation about tax.

You see tax as a burden people must carry. The less workers and businesses pay, the better. That’s your settled view.

For me and my party, tax is an investment. Levied fairly, it can open enormous possibilities to help make our county work better and our economy operate more fairly.

Any of us who have served in government take pride in the progressive nature of our tax system.

Those who have the most pay the most. This has been borne out by the fact that income tax receipts and corporation tax receipts have held up exceptionally well during this crisis.

Yet, a read of the latest figures also exposes a massive underlying risk.

We are far too dependent on vulnerable corporation tax revenue to fund our State. One in five of every euro taken in in tax receipts is from Corporation Tax. What is more, the bulk of it is generated from a small handful of companies.

Our tax base needs to be more sustainable and it must be broadened out. In the ten years since the last crash, we have replaced an over-reliance on stamp duty on property transactions with corporation tax.

This is a game of Russian Roulette with our future.

I agree that we must defend our right to set and maintain a corporation tax rate of 12.5%. But 12.5% should mean 12.5% and indeed there should be a minimum effective rate of corporation tax with no exceptions and limits on reliefs.

It is an important element – not the only one – of our offering in terms of good jobs and investment.

With most of our eggs in one basket, it is dangerous that you have tied your own hands in refusing to countenance even a conversation on higher taxes even on the much better off in this country over the lifetime of this government.

You could have generated a quarter of a billion by removing tax credits on all incomes over €100k. You chose not to.  

It is bizarre that even in a time like this when your departmental officials are worrying themselves to sleep at night about the deficit that the very same department refuses to provide costings to me on the introduction of a net wealth tax for Ireland.

The same people who worry about our sustainability of our borrowing levels are the same ones who won’t even give a moment’s thought to generating some more income from taxing unearned inherited wealth, gambling in shares, massive pension pots that have grown thanks to tax reliefs and indeed property (the asset in which most wealth us held).

We have shown you how €1.8 billion can be raised by targeting wealth and assets but this government looks the other way.

On the taxing of property, you both have more in common with SF than you would care to admit.

SF is now preparing for government and as their cowardly policy on property taxes exposes, they are about as prepared to tax wealth as FG and FF are.

It is a strange party of the left that says it doesn’t see property and land as an asset.

In fact, SF want to cut the tax on a millionaire’s mansion by 20%, leaving our cash starved council’s even more vulnerable than they already are financially. This is rank hypocrisy of the worst kind.

It is eminently possible to design a tax on wealth that does not impact on jobs and businesses. But the will simply does not exist.

Minister we do need that Commission on Taxation and Welfare that my party has called for, for some time.

Pragmatic business leaders who care about our country understand that a conversation on tax and on PRSI is needed if we are to plan strategically for the future.

CONCLUSION

We in the Labour Party are patriotic. We have always put our country and the interests of its people before the interests of our Party.

People are worried for their health, their job, their business, their family.

It is no time for naked opportunism. The public health and economic emergency requires solidarity.

We will support measures that we think will work and propose alternative solutions where we think your ideas fall short.

There is much in this budget that finds favour with us. We won’t oppose measures just for the sake of it in order to buy a cheap headline.

There is no public appetite for such political gamesmanship now.

Too many lives and livelihoods are at stake.

At this time of national emergency we want this government to be as ambitious for Ireland as we are but the scale of our ambition is not matched by what we have seen today.