Today I spoke in Dáil Eireann about Tax Transparency.
This is a matter on which I have been campaigning since I entered the Dáil in 2011.
Last year I launched my website www.taxtransparency.ie. On the site you can use my calculator to find out how much tax you pay and where that money goes, in simple euros and cents. Take a look here.
After Budget 2016 is announced on 13 October I will update the calculator to reflect changes.
You may have seen or received recently a newsletter compiled by the Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and myself with information for businesses in the constituency. It has information on supports available for small businesses, how to access finance, recent data on how the economy is doing and an update on the ‘Action Plan For Jobs’.
If you haven’t seen it, click here to see a copy. Please pass it on to anyone you think might benefit from the information.
Thank you for the many calls and emails on the continuing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
Yesterday Minister Coveney announced that the search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean will be extended from the end of September until the end of November. This is welcome news, but more now needs to be done in terms of a longer term solution.
In July I spoke in the Dáil praising the brave work of the Irish navy in its attempts to rescue as many migrants as possible – this I believe is a worthy use of our resources and I am proud that the Taoiseach and Minister took this initiative and that it has been extended. Since my election in 2011, I have pushed for reforms of our Direct Provision system because of the inhumane way in which it treats those seeking asylum once they enter that process here. Recently a government mandated review has recommended some very strong improvements to the system.
I believe that we have a responsibility to those seeking asylum – not just to those who manage to ‘make it’ to Ireland – but to the hundreds of thousands fleeing the appalling situation in Syria and elsewhere, the people who are today dying in the Mediterranean as they try to reach safer shores. This means, quite simply, welcoming into Ireland more migrants whom are seeking asylum in Europe and giving them the human security we all take for granted.
I have contacted the Ministers for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Justice to urge our government to take stronger action ahead of the meeting of Home Affairs and Justice Ministers of Europe, which is to take place in the coming weeks. We cannot ignore our responsibility to these people.
24 July 2015
As I made clear to the Committee on Thursday 23 July, I am completely opposed to the Banking Inquiry hearing evidence from Mr Drumm via video link. For me this is a matter on which the Inquiry’s integrity rests and may have serious implications for the future of our work.
Mr Drumm should appear in person, as he has been directed to do. Failing that, the Inquiry cannot give special treatment to a person who is of interest to the Gardaí, who will not comply with their requests and whose extradition is sought.
In the interest of the integrity of the Committee and of Dáil Éireann we cannot give protected status or legal privilege to a person who is acting in contravention of the wishes of the Gardaí, never mind the express direction of the Banking Inquiry or the wishes of the public in general.
For me it is not a matter of whether it is legally permissible or not for the Committee to take oral evidence from Mr Drumm while he remains outside the jurisdiction, in the interests of the Inquiry and the Oireachtas it must not happen.
The issue of Jean Claude Trichet’s appearance is a separate matter. Mr Trichet is not an Irish citizen and could not be directed to attend before the Inquiry. Nevertheless, he did travel to Ireland to answer questions from the Committee. Mr Drumm is an Irish citizen who has been directed to attend but has indicated he will not return to the country to be questioned at the Banking Inquiry.
The Government has published the Working Group report on Direct Provision and the Protection Process. More information about the report can be read here.
The report provides recommendations to improve the current systems and processes. The long delays for people going through Direct Provision are completely unsatisfactory – the implementation of the group’s suggestions would make a real positive difference to the people in the system.
This is the first comprehensive examination of our protection system in 15 years. The report has been compiled over the last six months and has provided over 170 recommendations for consideration. Minister Fitzgerald will begin an immediate dialogue with the relevant departments and agencies. It will be essential that the International Protection Bill is enacted early to implement recommendations from the report.
I have spoken a number of times on this issue in the Dáil and called for an amnesty for those who had become trapped in the system for far too long. I’m very glad to see that this call has been supported in the Working Group’s report and hope that it is accepted by government.
To see my most recent contribution in the Dáil on the Direct Provision system, which was made in the context of a separate Oireachtas Committee report click here.
For an earlier contribution on Direct Provision, where I first called for an amnesty click here.
Minister Noonan has confirmed that the Local Property Tax (LPT) in Dublin will not be raised in line with the continuing increase in house prices. I have argued against the design of this tax (linking the payment to the perceived market value at a point in time) since before it was introduced and I welcome the current review of the system (read more about the review here).
The Minister also indicated that Inheritance Tax will be changed in Budget 2016.
See the Minister’s comments below.
“In the last budget I announced that I was going to do a review of the anomaly whereby property values have risen. I’m not going to allow a situation where people’s Property Tax jumps by 40%, because values in Dublin jump by 40%. That’s not going to happen.
“The next valuation date is November of 2016. I think that valuation date is probably too close. But I’m telling you now, and you can take it as an absolute fact, I am not going to peg property taxes to the inflation in property prices.
“Because we brought property tax in at the bottom of the market. And there’s a recovery now, and people’s house values are going up. But they’re not going to be penalised for that.”
“In the bad times, as part of the difficulties we were in, the thresholds were cut. And the thresholds are now too low. And I’ll examine it in the budget.
“It’s worth pointing out to people, like the people you mentioned who are concerned, that if somebody is living in a house with parents, and is acting as a Carer in the house, if there’s a transfer to somebody who is already resident in the house, to a child, they’re exempt from inheritance tax. People don’t realise that.”
On Tuesday Minister Jan O’Sullivan announced an extra 610 Special Needs Assistant (SNA) posts in the country for September 2015, 191 of which are in Dublin. This is very welcome news.
55% of the posts will be supporting students in mainstream classes, 45% will be allocated to students in special classes or in special schools. You can see the detailed allocations here.
There has been an 11.7% increase in SNA posts since 2011. Although I would like to see more funds invested in the area, we are heading in the right direction. We need to focus on growing the economy so that essential resources like these can be provided.
The Schools Admissions Bill has finally been published.
To read the bill click here.
This is just a draft, it has not been discussed in the Dáil or committee yet and it does not contain any specific regulations on issues like access for children of past pupils etc.
These details will be worked out but I remain unsatisfied on a few points, including priority access for local children where the school is state-funded.
You can hear me talk about the bill on Morning Ireland recently here (42 minutes in).
I have been working on this bill since 2012, it is very much needed. It is essential that we have an open, transparent and fair admissions system.
The Education Committee report was debated in the Dáil a year ago, for my contribution and more information click here.
To read about my campaign for fair funding of schools go here.
As you can see, this is an important issue for me and of course, for the constituency.
Minister Coveney has introduced a White Paper on Defence, the first such review for the Irish Defence Forces since 2000.
This was debated in the Dail before going to Cabinet and you can watch my contribution here.
In my contribution I touched upon the need to establish our own policy, the need to invest in our defence forces to support their work around the world, ending the UN Security Council aspect of Triple-lock provision, using our expertise to help others, and dropping the pretence of neutrality in favour of a more responsible and honest position. You can read a draft of my remarks here.
There is currently a review of the Local Property Tax (LPT) being carried out by Dr. Don Thornhill.
I have been arguing for a re-design of the property tax since before its introduction (watch my Dail speech here). More recently, I was one of a small number of TDs whom argued publicly for the LPT to be reviewed and frozen ahead of the 2016 revaluation date. This was in advance of the review now being undertaken by Dr Thornhill.
Once the review is complete it will be handed over to Minister Noonan to examine the impact of property price movements; the overall yield of LPT and it’s contribution to revenue; and the effectiveness and efficiency of the system in general. To find out more about the review go here.
This report is expected to be completed in July. It is intended that the review will make recommendations for changes to ensure stability for homeowners.
The current LPT rates are in effect until 2017. I hope to see some positive changes to the system in advance.
To see questions I have asked of the Minister for Finance regarding LPT and other issues click here.
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