The Dublin government has been slammed for a “do less” Budget despite the crisis over growing social inequality and homelessness.
Fine Gael Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe explicitly used the threat posed by Brexit as an excuse to dodge welfare increases.
Delivering his Budget speech in the Dáil on Tuesday, Donohoe admitted it was a standstill budget which would make little difference to most people’s finances.
There was an increase in ‘carbon tax’ which will add 2c to a litre of petrol and diesel, no cuts to personal income tax and a further 50c added to the price of a packet of cigarettes.
Despite rents continuing to spiral out of control and more people becoming homeless than ever before, the government made only a token gesture in tackling the housing crisis.
State services in Dublin, short on emergency accommodation, have been handing out sleeping bags to families and children in the inner city, a dire situation that is set to continue under this budget.
The total allocation for homelessness for 2020 will be just a quarter of 1% of the total budget.
The announcements also included 1.2 billion euro of provisions for a no-deal Brexit. There were suggestions by political commentators that any Brexit deal could trigger a pre-election giveaway.
Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the budget failed to ease the pressure on workers and families. Instead, he said, it favoured bankers, insurance companies and other vested interests that the Fine Gael-led government and Fianna Fáil “will never stand up to”.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Doherty said that on top of “out of control rents, rip-off insurance premiums, unaffordable childcare costs”, people were now faced with increased carbon taxes. What had started with a small increase would continue to rise, “squeezing households with no alternatives”.
This government “introduced child homelessness as a permanent feature in our society, and have laid out the red carpet for the cuckoo funds and for the speculators who have bought out our cities, pushed out prices and locked people out of the property market and into an unaffordable rental system”.
Solidarity TD Mick Bailey said there were no conditions being put on the bailout that many large firms would get for Brexit, but “the only mention of workers in the Minister’s speech is provision for social protection payments for workers being laid off”.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said 720,000 people lived in poverty, including 230,000 children, and it was a “big mistake” not to increase State pension, unemployment and other social welfare benefits.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald TD said that the Taoiseach was “out of ideas and increasingly desperate to cling to power”.
Housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin criticised the government’s paltry investment and questioned its commitment to reform.
He said: “It was a ‘do less’ budget at a time when the crisis is escalating for renters, for people on council lists or for first-time buyers in the big cities.”
Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described the budget as “an opportunity missed”.
“It is short on solutions and fails to adequately invest in the priority areas of social and affordable housing, homelessness, health, education and the environment.”
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said there was “precious little” in the budget to address the “chasm” that he said it developing between rural and regional Ireland on the one hand, and Dublin area on the other.
“We are now at crisis point as a nation. Ireland is divided between an over-heating and fractured capital and sprawling commuter belt extending over half the country and a western and border region that is emptying of its youth.
“Where is the big plan to address the lopsided economy that this state has become? There was no investment of critical size to develop centers of international investment outside of Dublin.”