Aontú Launches Second Budget Pre-Submission To Heal A Divided Ireland
Aontú Budget 2022 Pre-Submission
Ireland is increasingly divided, with every passing day. It is divided by how much you earn, by where you live, whether you live in Dublin or in the rest of country, whether you have public healthcare or private healthcare, whether you have a disability or not, whether you rent or own your own home. The Ireland of today is not just divided by partition, but by region, income and background. The cost of living and social inequality in this country is dictating the quality of life you can live here.
This division is the result of the fact that none of the crises of the past decade have been resolved. If you measure Ireland in terms of the cost and availability of housing, health waiting lists, spatial imbalance leading to a commuter hell, the extortionate cost of living etc, these are worse than 10 years ago.
We have a dual society and a dual economy. FDI is burgeoning while hospitality, farming, tourism and much of the indigenous sector is hammered. Many businesses are in a zombie state surviving only on government supports and potentially 50,000 redundancies are about to be crystallised.
Our National Debt is set to hit over €240 billion with this year’s budget. Yet, what do we have to show for the billions spent by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in government? One of the most heavily indebted nations in the world, with poor infrastructure, unaffordable childcare, unaffordable housing, and a healthcare system divided by the haves and the waiting.
The total cost of Covid (wage subsidies, grant supports, liquidity schemes & taxation measures) over 2020-2021 was €41.3 billion. As % of national income, Ireland’s Covid cost was one of the largest in EU. This was because Ireland was an outlier in terms of length & severity of restrictions. Despite the monstrous size of this cost only Aontú has challenged it.
The fiscal burden of these shockwaves of this has fallen overwhelmingly on working men and women, whilst the favoured friends of the establishment parties have shirked their responsibilities. An Ireland for all and by all, means that everyone must contribute. Irish unity is not merely the fall of partition; Irish unity is about ending the division in our society by income and by region; Irish unity is about ensuring equality and justice for all from Derry to Kerry.
The unaffordability and division of our island exacts a devastating human cost. The commuter hell experienced across the country means parents are spending less and less time with their children, as children are dropped off at childcare as early as 7am in the morning. Food banks across the country simply cannot meet the demand for help. 79 homeless people lost their lives on the streets of Dublin in 2020 – the national figure is unknown.
Thousands of Irish people emigrate every year, not by choice but because they can’t afford to live in Ireland. Fathers, mothers, grandparents, children are stuck on trolleys in Irish hospitals because there is no capacity. The rates of depression and anxiety are rising across every age group, and every sector of society. Farmers and fishermen, betrayed by their own government, work themselves into the ground to try ensure the family profession lasts another generation. Quite simply, the Irish people are paying the human cost of government failures.
In our Pre budget submission we have focused on the ten priorities that must underpin Budget 2022, to begin the work of repairing our society and repairing the damage done by too many governments.
- Time To Really Bring Vacant Houses Back Into The Market:
There are currently 180,000 vacant buildings and sites across Ireland. These properties are sitting outside of the housing market, serving no purpose. Rather than focusing on ideological housing solutions that will either bankrupt the State or enrich developers, why isn’t the State reengaging the resources already available to us.
- An expansion of the Vacant Site Levy to encompass the over 90,000 vacant sites (a very conservative estimate) across the country so sites.
- The funds generated from the expanded Levy – which at the very least would amount to €300 million per annum – would be redistributed n grant form ito develop these vacant properties and add to the housing stock;
- A Fresh Start In Healthcare Reform:
The promise that was Sláintecare, is not being implemented. Irish people are stuck on waiting lists and on trolleys in hospitals that never seem to abate. GP surgeries are overwhelmed, healthcare staff are chronically underpaid, and there is no accountability for the scandals that inevitably emerge. The first step to reforming our Healthcare service is taking bold steps towards Universal Public Healthcare – that the same standard of care and treatment is available to each and every Irish citizen.
- 10% of the Healthcare Budget to be allocated towards Primary Care;
- A cap on the % of the Healthcare Budget which can be spent on Administration;
- To boost the capacity of the healthcare service, Aontú would fund 1,310 additional hospital beds, necessary staff for these beds, with 110 of these beds being designated as ICU and critical care beds (Cost €490 million);
- Additional funding to establish 12 additional CAMHS teams across the country (Cost: €10 million).
- A Safer Ireland For All:
Under the tenure of Fine Gael, the so-called Law & Order Party, the numbers and infrastructures of the Gardaí have been decimated leaving the Gardaí in a state of crisis and the citizens of Ireland increasingly vulnerable. Garda numbers are down, this is especially affecting community Gardaí. There are spikes in knife crime, sexual violence, anti-social behaviour, and other forms of violent across the country. There are now ‘no go’ areas in Dublin and other counties, where after a certain hour certain areas are too dangerous to go into. This Budget needs to bolster Gardaí numbers and resources, take back our streets from crime, and ensure the necessary supports are in place for the most vulnerable.
- Increase in Gardaí numbers to 16,500 personnel.
- Investment in Drug Rehabilitation and Detox Services.
- Funding to be allocated for mandatory body cameras for all frontline Gardaí.
- Fair Distribution of Economic Burdens:
For too long in Ireland, the cost of economic recovery has been borne overwhelmingly by one group in Irish society: the Irish taxpayer. Whilst sweetheart deals and tax breaks were given to vulture funds and multinationals, the Irish taxpayer has been subjected to austerity with little of the benefits. This needs to end. The burden of economic recovery must be evenly distributed. The Irish people cannot be saddled with the cost of yet another crisis.
- The extension and increase of the Banking Levy to ensure a per annum return of €250 million.
- The imposition of a digital sales & services tax to ensure those benefiting from these unprecedented times can contribute to society’s benefit. There will be a 3% levy on all digital services and sales that are offered in the country.
- Funding for Affordable & Sustainable Childcare:
Ireland invests a mere 0.3% of GDP in childcare. We cannot provide high-quality, affordable childcare when we are not prepared to fund it. Providers want sustainability, parents want affordability. ECCE Capitation rates need to be increased. AIM funding needs to be increased. The Universal Childcare Subsidy is wholly inadequate. Our % of GDP investment is out of sync with the rest of the developed world. Budget 2022 needs to include a radical increase in funding for a suffering sector, and a a tax break for parents so that they can exercise a choice in paying providers or also taking time out from work and providing childcare themselves
- Increase of funding for childcare sector to 1% of GDP, to rise to 2% of GDP by 2025 (Cost: €800 million);
- That the Universal Childcare Subsidy be increased from 50c per week, to €2 per week (Cost: €127 million);
- That the ECCE Capitation Rates be increased by €5 per week per child and a 20% increase in AIM funding (Cost: €36.7 million)
- End Pension Poverty:
Just under six in ten Irish workers have some sort of pension to supplement the State’s PRSI pension. The pension age is now 66, and when politically expedient will be raised to 67, then 68. The government’s pensions policy is one of ‘work till you drop’, as opposed to working your fair share then retiring to enjoy the fruits of your labours. The working men and women in this country are left in fear and anxiety, wondering when they will be allowed to retire and also when will they be able to afford retirement – whilst TDs who leave Leinster House getting a golden handshake for their troubles. This budget needs to address the growing crisis of pension poverty and fund the auto-enrolment pension scheme to begin in 2022.
- A €10 per week increase in the State Pension (Contributory) beginning in 2022 to address pension poverty (Cost: €300 million);
- That the Pension be retained at 66, and that plans by the Department of Finance to eventually raise the Pension Age to 72 be ended
- The establishment of an auto-enrolment pension scheme to begin in 2022.
- An End To Two-Tiered Ireland:
Ireland now is divided in two, between those who live on either side of the M50. Ireland outside of Dublin is starved of the resources, infrastructure, investment and ability to compete with Dublin. Whilst Dublin is able to woo the likes of Google and Facebook, beyond the M50 some counties will be waiting close to a decade for broadband. Public transports to connect the 32 counties are put on hold whilst more transport options to further connect Dublin get the green light. All roads lead to Dublin now. For the best jobs and competitive wages, there is very little option other than Dublin. This budget needs to take the first step in repairing the chasm between Dublin and the rest of Ireland.
- A provisional allocation of €90 million is included in our submission to reduce Leap Card Fares and ticket prices for inter-county travel.
- Creation of Remote Working Hub Programme, which would establish 150 working hubs outside of Dublin by 2024 (Cost: €100 million);
- That for every €1 invested by the government in Dublin, there is at least €2 invested in Ireland outside of the M50.
- Time To Stand With Rural Ireland:
Rural Ireland is under siege from a Dublin-centric government. Farmers, fishermen and the elderly couple burning turf are being demonised for their way of life. Despite beef exports in the billions, farmers are being forced to sell their produce below the cost of production and with reduced CAP payments. Fishermen were sold out for Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal, and have less rights in their own waters than the EU. Post offices and banks across rural Ireland are closing year on year. Rural Ireland is withering on the vine, as more and more of its young people leave and the old ways of life die.
- The Irish government guaranteeing that any shortfall arising from reduction in the CAP scheme or from reduced fishing quotas will be made up by the Irish government.
- An additional €300 million on top of the NDP allocation for retrofitting of all homes under €450,000 by 2023;
- Reform of the Carbon Tax to ensure that low income earners and Rural Ireland are not unjustly targeted. Introduce a “Carbon Tax+Market Price Limit” for energy. If the purpose of the Carbon Tax is to push people away from fossil fuel through an increased price but that price has already be achieved by price inflation it is not possible to argue for the carbon tax to be still applied. Indeed its reckless to do so.
- Provide feed in tariff for the microgeneration of energy.
- Let Our Young People Live:
There is an economic ageism working against young people. This is facilitated by the policies of our government. The skyrocketing cost of life in Ireland is stealing the futures away from our young people. If things do not change, we will lose yet another generation of our young people to emigration. These people will have been forced to build their lives in every other part of the world bar Ireland, because of how difficult the Government have made things. The idea of this generation of owning their own home is a pipe dream they will never see come true. Meanwhile, college students are staying in hostels and hotels because there is not student accommodation affordable or available to them. This budget needs to deliver substantive SUSI reform, pathways to homeownership for young people, and expansion of apprenticeship schemes.
- Stop Stealing From Our Children’s Future:
Ireland’s National Debt will soon hit over €270 billion. This would mean that Covid and the government mismanagement of it will have cost €70 billion in financial terms. This works out at a debt of €54,000 for man, woman and child living in this state. This equates to over €100,000 of debt for each worker in the state. This budget cannot be another instalment of the debt mountain economics of Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael, we cannot continue to steal from our children’s futures to bailout yesterday’s broken promises. We oppose tax breaks in this budget.