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Rebellious taxpayers and 'testosterone-driven woohah': What do female politicians make of the Budget?

A panel of women politicians came together in Dublin this morning to discuss Budget 2015.

Mary Lou McDonald
Mary Lou McDonald
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

WILL WATER CHARGES break the contract between Irish citizens and the State?

That was one of the questions put to a female political panel at Ibec’s post-Budget review this morning.

One attendee noted that the massive anti-water charges protest in the capital last Saturday could signal a change of the stereotypical “docile Irish taxpayers”.

She asked if the Revenue would have to be doubled in size to collect the charge.

Tánasite Joan Burton said she wasn’t aware of any talks on such a move “at any level”.

Mary Lou McDonald remarked that the Government’s “threat” to reduce people’s water flow to a trickle had left “deep resentment among people” who view water as a human right.

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader said that “the average person doesn’t resent paying tax when they can establish a level of fairness” – something she said could not be done in this instance.

Burton stated that since the establishment of Irish Water, several local authorities have told the Government about the presence of lead water pipes – something she said they must have been aware of for 30-40 years.

She said that any additional bill had the “potential to be burden on families” but water charges are necessary to improve the quality of water infrastructure and water itself.

We take high quality water for granted [in Ireland] but it costs a lot.

Fianna Fáil Senator Aevril Power said that people’s “sense of fairnes” was offended by the introduction of water charges so soon after the property tax.

Speaking about Tuesday’s Budget, Power said she was particularly concerned that class sizes in schools weren’t reduced as Ireland currenty has the second highest teacher class ratio in Europe.

Taxes

Power also said that reducing the level of income tax from 41% to 40% was a mistake.

McDonald agreed, adding that the Government had missed an opportunity to introduce a third rate of tax for people who earn more than €100,000 annually.

Burton said that if you were to “poll everyone in this room, no two people are likely to agree on taxes”.

She said that by reaching a deficit of 2.7% of GDP, Ireland now had a “strong cushion” in terms of its finances.

Burton remarked that Tuesday’s Budget “marked a sea change” and the end to austerity.

She added that no political party would be in a position to promise that the “kind of catastrphic loss of the banking guarantee” could be replaced in one Budget.

On the subject of corporate tax, Fine Gael’s Aine Collins said that the phasing out of the ‘Double Irish’ loophole would end Ireland’s asscociation with the words “suspicious” and “tax haven”.

Gender quotas

The panel discussion was co-organsied by Women for Election – a non-party organisation that provides mentoring for women who are considering running for public office.

McDonald described the lack of female political representaiton in Irish politics, which stands at 16% in the Dáil, as “scandalous”, adding that the situation could be helped by gender quotas.

If political parties fail to reach 30% of women candidates on their ticket for the 2016 General Election, their State funding stands to be halved.

McDonald noted that such measures could also be introduced in business.

The Dublin TD said that there will always be a debate as to whether or not quotes are right, wrong or demeaning and if they “tokenise women”.

She remarked that if quotas aren’t introduced “we will be talking about these issues forever”.

McDonald added that the increased presence of women on corporate boards would lead to less “testosterone-driven woohah”, as showcased in the Anglo tapes.

Read: Tens of thousands take to the streets of Dublin to protest against water charges

Related: What does Joan Burton make of Facebook and Apple paying for female workers to freeze their eggs?

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Órla Ryan

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