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Thursday 9 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
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Sinn Féin We want to ease the burden and give people a break
It makes sense to put more money into people’s pockets by reducing their taxes so that they have some money to spend in the real economy, writes Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty.

BUDGETS ARE ABOUT choices and tough decisions have to be made. Sinn Féin’s Budget choices are about fairness, giving families a break and ensuring that the most vulnerable sections of society are protected.

We have identified a series of taxation and savings measures, fully costed by government departments, to reduce the deficit and pay for new spending measures.

The domestic economy is on the floor and showing no signs of picking up. Towns up and down the state are blighted by the empty shop fronts on their main streets, To Let signs on business premises and For Sale signs still standing at the entrance to ghost estates.

Wherever I go, people tell me that they feel they are being treated unfairly, they see the rich getting richer, while ordinary workers are under terrible pressure to make ends meet.

This is true, not just of those who are unfortunate enough to have lost their jobs, but working people who find that by the time they pay their bills, they have almost nothing left.

So, when the Sinn Féin economics team set about creating an alternative budget to the government’s austerity-based one, the first priority was to ease that burden and give people a break.

It makes sense to put more money into people’s pockets by reducing their taxes so that they have some money to spend in the real economy.

Abolish property tax

Therefore Sinn Féin would repeal the Local Property Tax. This would save the average household €278 in tax. We would not ask anyone earning below €17,542 (the minimum wage) to pay the Universal Social Charge. That would benefit 296,000 workers.

We would give free school meals to 500 additional schools and pay for half of core school books, both measures designed to ease the burden on families.

Anyone using our health service, education system or other frontline service can see there is nothing left to cut and Sinn Féin would rule out more cuts to our public services.

While government claims that basic welfare has not been cut, anyone looking to renew their medical card or depending on child benefit knows the reality is very different. Sinn Féin says no to more sneaky cuts to welfare, education or hospital services. Forty million euro would be set aside to employ frontline workers so the whittling away of services can be reversed.

This would include funding for 230 desperately needed Special Needs Assistants in schools.

Sinn Féin would move to reverse some of the most brutal government cuts. We would restore the respite grant for carers and extend the fuel allowance season by three weeks.

We would pay for cochlear ear implants for the 200 children who need them. The parents and children concerned are painfully aware of the cruelty of a government which would provide just one implant, like giving a child with visual impairment one lens.

Our public services are at breaking point and some are already broken. They need to be protected. Ireland in 2014 will have suffered over €30bn in cuts and taxes in the space of a few years.

Wealth Tax

Fianna Fáil’s disastrous reign and its surrender of Irish economic sovereignty has left the country in a critical financial position. Nobody denies that the books must be balanced and that there are difficult choices to be made.

Sinn Féin’s tax and spending proposals should not be seen in isolation, we are also talking about a sorely needed stimulus package as part of our broader economic policy.

We would maintain the 9 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality and tourism sectors for another year. This is to protect jobs, while a broader Sinn Féin stimulus package is proposing almost €10 billion additional investment in job creation and economic growth. This would create 100,000 jobs.

Our proposed Wealth Tax would raise revenue to fund a Youth Guarantee to tackle the chronic crisis in youth unemployment. Guaranteeing work or training to our young people is as important to our economic recovery as a fair budget.

There can be no real recovery with over 400,000 unemployed and a brain drain which is pulling our youngest and brightest away and breaking hearts all over the country. The government has relied on austerity only and the result is no growth and sky-high unemployment and emigration.

Our guiding principle has been to show how a budget can be fair. We would ask those who can afford to do so to pay more and increase tax on some forms of discretionary spending such as on cigarettes and on gambling.

Our alternative is fair, it is costed by the government and it is fully implementable.

It exposes the rhetoric from the consensus for cuts of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil, that there is no alternative to austerity.

Pearse Doherty is a TD for Donegal South-West and Sinn Féin’s Spokesperson on Finance

Stephen Donnelly: The Troika targets can be met with no additional budget measures

Fianna Fáil: Correcting the public finances alone will not be enough to drive recovery

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Pearse Doherty TD
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