Following the election I was charged with producing Fine Gael’s Oireachtas Reform Programme for the new Dáil. You can read the document here.
I was delighted to be asked to sit on the Dáil Reform Committee, where we have agreed to some very important and fundamental changes to the way governments will carry out their business. The report of the Reform Committee will be presented shortly.
Recently we debated some of the changes being put forward. Watch the video here.
To read my pamphlet on the need for reform from 2013 go here.
On Thursday I spoke in the Dáil about the crisis in the Mediterranean.
Click here to watch a video of my speech or scroll down to read my comments.
I have a real problem with the word “refugee” because it is dehumanising. It is like when we use numbers – it takes away the humanity of an individual. When we say the word “refugee”, one makes associations with a person from another country, of another colour, ethnicity or creed. We do not see them as being like ourselves. They are but from a different place, from which they desperately need to get away. That is the only difference between us. Whether one says the word “migrant” or “refugee”, one is creating a distance because it interferes with our ability to face this crisis properly and deal with it. It is perhaps the greatest crisis or threat to the European Union project since its foundation. It is bigger than the euro crisis and the potential threat posed by Brexit.
Click here to continue reading.
I reflected on my involvement in the Inquiry in the Dáil and you can watch my speech here. My sincere thanks for everyone’s patience over the past 18 months as we carried out our work.
Following on from the announcement of Budget 2016 we have released a guide to how the new measures will affect you.
It covers changes in taxation, health, housing, social welfare and options for the unemployed.
To see a copy of the guide click here.
If you would like any further information on the changes please get in touch with my office.
Today I spoke on the Finance Bill in the Dáil. This Bill will give effect to the changes announced in Budget 2016.
The 2016 Budget has been announced.
While there has been significant public pressure for the government to go further than it has with today’s package, I am encouraged to note that plans for next year are progressing in a responsible way.
As a result of this budget, since 2014 through to the end of 2016, the government will have increased public spending by 4%. In the same period, revenue from taxation will have increased by 14%, and growth in the economy by 18%. This is not a giveaway budget, this is prudent. And it shows us clearly that there is scope to further reduce taxation beyond this budget.
Furthermore, this budget will reduce the annual deficit to 1.2% of GDP. The national debt will fall to the Eurozone average, below 93%. Fine Gael in government will continue to be responsible with the public finances.
The focus of this budget is to continue to foster an environment where jobs can be created and investment and productivity in the economy can be increased. With more people working, we can reduce taxation while taking more in from taxes, to put towards the public good.
Some of the headline changes which may be of interest are:
- USC reductions – the marginal rate of tax falls below 50% for all earners under €70,044. Earners above this amount will still benefit by as much as €1762, depending on their circumstances. The government has committed to bringing the marginal rate below 50% for all earners if re-elected.
- Low-paid workers – the minimum wage will rise from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour, and a further 42,500 workers will be removed from the USC.
- Self-employed – a tax credit worth €550 is being introduced for non-PAYE workers. This is the “first step” and Fine Gael will equalise taxes between PAYE workers and the self-employed if it is able to continue in government.
- Property tax – the revaluation date for the local property tax will be postponed until 2019, allowing time to reform this tax. This means the LPT will effectively be frozen until 2019 at the current valuation.
- Inheritance tax – the tax free threshold under the capital acquisition tax has been increased by €55,000 to €280,000.
- Investment taxes – a revised capital gains tax relief will be introduced from 1 January 2016. A reduced CGT of 20% will apply to the disposal in whole or in part of a business up to €1million. The 3-year tax relief for start-ups is being extended to 2018.
There are also positive developments in relation to childcare and pensions:
- The pension levy of 0.15 will end this year. State pension payments will increase by €3 a week in 2016, the first increase since 2009. The fuel allowance will also increase by €2.50 a week, and the Christmas bonus will see a threefold increase on last year to 75%.
- From now on, children will be eligible for free childcare from 3 years of age, up until they are 5 1/2 or until they start primary school. In 2016, child benefit will be €140 per month for every child. Statutory paternity leave of 2 weeks will be in place by next September.
This is all very encouraging news, particularly considering the considerable work we have been doing in the constituency to identify and effect these important changes.
Later in the week we will be re-launching TaxTransparaency.ie (see here) to show you how the government will spend your taxes, in simple euros and cents. For the full details of what was announced by the government, please click here.
If you have any specific queries regarding the changes announced today, please email me at email@example.com.
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.
Update, 10 September 2015
I was happy with the outcome of the Cabinet meeting this morning. The increase in the numbers we will be accepting has risen to 4,000, which is a big improvement. It is essential that we have the necessary financial and inter-departmental support to manage this effort and it appears that there is joined up thinking in our approach. This doesn’t mean we should stop at accepting 4,000 people – but personally I think this is a respectable starting point.
Update, 4 September 2015
Minister Coveney has 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.
This situation is changing every day and currently there is a debate over numbers – I believe this is a false debate. We can accept a lot more than what is currently being proposed, at least 10,000.
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.