‘Bonkers’ budget a media exercise


The Dublin government has set aside five million euro for a new public relations department but said it has no funds to pay thousands of pensions blocked by a rule described by the Minister for Finance himself as ‘bonkers and unbelievable’.

The annual 26 County budget, revealed by Minister Paschal Donohue on Tuesday, was notable for the scale of its lack of ambition. Criticised as a ‘do nothing’ budget by Sinn Fein, it made headlines only for the introduction of a sugar tax on soft drinks and a new tax on sunbed shops.

It is likely to pass through parliament with the support of Fianna Fail.

But Minister Donohue said has will not be addressing a “bonkers” rule which he accepted is denying tens of thousands full pensions entitlements, claiming he does not have the money to do so.

Those who took time out of work for any reason, such as to look after children or care for elderly relatives, were inexplicably penalised in their contributory state pensions in the last budget.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland as well as members of the Dublin parliament have strongly attacked the government for failing to address the pension inequalities, which mostly affect women, as “blatant discrimination”.

While Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe yesterday admitted this is “wrong”, he claimed the 26 County State does not have the money it would cost to address the issue.

Delivering his first budget this week, Mr Donohoe introduced moderate tax cuts targeted at middle-income earners. However, struggling homeowners came in for a shock as mortgage interest relief was progressively cut by 25pc for each coming year. The relief allowed homeowners who bought during the boom years claim back tax on their mortgage interest payments.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty said that cutting mortgage relief could come as a big blow to many homeowners.

The Donegal South West representative said: “It will hit people, we still have around 80,000 family homes that are in mortgage arrears, this is only going to make their situation worse.”

He added: “We have banks that are still charging over the proper interest rates that are according to the European norm. Many of those banks we have large shareholdings in and the government has a step-off approach in relation to this.”

The move came as it emerged that thousands of bank customers on ‘tracker’ mortgages were illegally moved to more expensive ‘fixed-rate’ mortgages by the state banks in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, with some losing their home as a result.

Sinn Fein Finance spokesperson described the budget as one that tolerates and normalises mass homelessness of young people and children.

He said the government’s decision to allocate such a proportion of available resources on tax cuts shows that it does not understand the reality on the ground for ordinary families.

“What does your version of balancing the books mean for the child who hears their mother locked in the bathroom of their hotel room crying night after night because she feels that she is failing her daughter,” he asked.

“What does it mean for the parents who have to watch their children suffer in pain because they cannot get access to treatment in our crumbling health services?

“How comforting is your version of balancing the books for the elderly man lying on a hospital trolley today>

“These are the realities of your policies and you are furthering and normalising these policies here today with the help of Fianna Fail. Unfortunately the only conclusion we can come to Minister is that you simply don’t get it.”

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