FG playing dangerous game with public finances

19 May 2019

Speaking in the final week of the campaign for the local and European elections, the leader of the Labour Party Brendan Howlin accused the Taoiseach of playing a dangerous game with the public finances.

Deputy Howlin said:
“Public spending has finally recovered to the same level as before the economic crash, some ten years previously. People endured years of hardship to rebuild the economy and the public finances. They rightly expect their sacrifices to be rewarded by public investment in health services, affordable housing and regional development, including broadband.

“They also expect public investment to be based on long-term sustainability, not winning the next election.

“Our goal should be to attain West European standards of living. Instead, this Fine Gael government only seems inspired by Britain and the United States, despite their economic inequality, falling living standards for working people and overstretched public services.

“Fine Gael is presiding over a national investment programme, but there is every reason to be concerned about its sustainability or their ability to deliver.

“Rather than deliver health spending based on a fair share of development across the country, Fine Gael’s mismanagement of spending on the National Children’s Hospital will mean delays to other vital hospital investments.

“We can now afford to build public housing with public money on land that Labour kept in public ownership. Instead, the Minister for Housing tells us that professional adults should spend years living like students because this happens in New York and London, two of the most out-of-control, unaffordable housing markets in the world.

“We do need broadband now, including in my own rural constituency. But it is incomprehensible for the Minister for Communications to gift €3 billion of public money to a venture capitalist rather than using the same money to deliver the same national broadband network, just as quickly but in public ownership.

“Ireland is the worst performing country in Europe on climate, and Fine Gael MEPs have voted against climate measures again and again as part of the EPP in the European Parliament, unlike Labour’s group. Fine Gael have delayed announcing their own government action plan on climate until after the elections, instead preferring to cynically make a series of announcements to use the people’s money to buy the election.

“Fine Gael has proven itself incapable of leading a mature national conversation on carbon taxes or local property tax. They have pandered to populist opposition to all taxation, and they promise income tax cuts that will only benefit the top one in five income earners. It was the erosion of our tax base that fatally undermined the public finances before 2008. Fine Gael is making the same kind of short-term decisions to win elections that Fianna Fáil made during the Celtic Tiger years.

“Fine Gael are also shamelessly spending the people’s money to buy the upcoming elections. While money can be found for some Fine Gael projects, CE supervisors still have no pensions, rehabilitation services need help to meet the needs of people with disabilities and the South East do not have 24-hour cardiac services.

“The announcement of a ‘preferred bidder’ for rural broadband just before these elections had no substance other than to remind everyone that the Government has been negotiating with a sole bidder for some months. No contract will be signed until the autumn, but Fine Gael hoped this announcement would buy them votes.

“The National Children’s Hospital, broadband and tax cuts for the highest paid are three examples of Fine Gael failing to safeguard the public’s money, while they continue to spend million on consultants to manage their public image. The lack of affordable housing and the failure to invest in health and social care is testament to Fine Gael’s priorities being elsewhere.

“This is not the same Fine Gael party that worked in the national interest to save the public finances. Most of the current ministers are inexperienced and out of touch. There is a danger of this crop of ministers repeating all of the mistakes of Fianna Fáil in government.”


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