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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018

Pearse Doherty: 'We would invest the €1.4bn available, putting us on our way to a new society'

Sinn Féin would choose to invest in shared and stable prosperity for all people of this island, writes Pearse Doherty.

Pearse Doherty TD Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Finance

WHEN FINE GAEL launched their Summer Economic Statement last week, you’d expect that they would be presenting a plan of major investment in Irish people and our public services. However, they have chosen this year to hold back €1.4bn in investment at a time of crisis and uncertainty.

Childcare costs are the highest in Europe. Our health service is completely unfit for a modern society. 10,000 Irish citizens, including some 4,000 children, are homeless. House prices and rents continue to soar, and all the while millionaire developers from abroad have been allowed, and even encouraged, to profiteer from this chaos.

The spectre of Brexit looms large over citizens and businesses here, and 40% of corporation tax is paid by only a handful of tech-firms. On the world stage, uncertainty could bring the next economic shock to our door.

Low investment

All of this matters because, for most of the past ten years, investment from the Irish government has been the lowest among European states. Affordable housing, our roads, our schools and hospitals, and broadband and basic services for rural communities have all suffered severely as a result.

Put simply, the people of Ireland, our communities, our young people, and our economy, are still reeling from a lost decade.

So when Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe stepped forth last week, he was setting out a plan of clear choices, decisions he had made freely. He has chosen not to invest €1.4bn when budget day arrives.

Within very strict spending rules, that prevent boom and bust policies, this funding is freely available, and Fine Gael won’t spend it. Indeed, investing what is available to us would still keep us on track to reach our European debt targets.

Fine Gael approach

When crisis visits our families, we all know we have to act to deal with it. We don’t sit on our hands and allow it to deepen. This is the Fine Gael approach. We have 10,000 people homeless, including 4,000 children. The government’s decision not to spend €1.4 billion in the coming budget means that they have taken the conscious choice to leave these people behind.

So what is the reason? Fine Gael has donned the cap of ‘prudence’. This is their new excuse for refusing to invest in Ireland at a time when we all urgently need it.

Our economy is showing positive signs, so now is the time to strengthen it, secure long-term and stable growth, and rebuild for citizens. But Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe believe that allowing thousands of children to grow up in this state without a home is ‘good governance’.

The government argue that not investing €1.4bn in broken roads and broken communities, where we still see the scars of the lost decade, is ‘responsible’. They are trying to convince the Irish people of this, when we know in our daily lives that nothing is further from the truth.

An alternative

Of course, none of it is by accident. These are the choices that Fine Gael have made, have always made, and will continue to make in government.

But Sinn Féin offers the alternative. The people of Ireland are sparking rapid social change across our island, demanding their rights, and casting off the conservative shackles of the past which stifled our potential and ambition.

In our economy, and in this coming budget, we must do the same. We have two paths to choose from. We can either endure another year in Fine Gael’s long mission to turn Ireland into a cheap, low-spend, and profoundly unequal economy, while social crisis is normalised.

Or we can decide that the Irish people deserve a State that will care for them, and listen to their calls for change. We can decide to build a new economy for a changing Ireland.

Services we’ve never had

The Irish people want world-class, universal public services, like those enjoyed in modern economies across the world. These are services that we have never had in the history of the state.

We want a fair and prosperous economy where hard work is actually rewarded. We want real stability in our lives, wages that provide for our families, and real opportunities to follow our ambitions.

In government, we would begin implementing our plan for free healthcare for anyone who needs it, when they need it. We would invest to slash the cost of childcare for struggling families and young parents. We would invest in our future by abolishing student fees, and creating thousands of apprenticeships.

All of these are choices, choices that any party of government can make.

This budget we would choose to invest the €1.4bn available, putting us on our way to this new economy, and a new society. Sinn Féin would choose to invest in shared and stable prosperity for all people of this island.

Pearse Doherty TD is Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Finance and on Public Expenditure and Reform and is a member of the Oireachtas Finance Committee and the Budgetary Oversight Committee.

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About the author:

Pearse Doherty TD  / Sinn Féin's Spokesperson on Finance

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