Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle Says Budget 2021 Shows Government Failure To Commit To Rural Development

Pringle says Budget 2021 shows Government failure to commit to rural development

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said Budget 2021 reflects the Government’s failure to commit to the development of rural Ireland and represents another missed opportunity to address key issues the people of Ireland face.

Deputy Pringle told the Dáil today (Wednesday): “The largest revenue generator of your budget is the carbon tax, which will undoubtedly have the worst impact on the poorest in society; a measly 10c raise to the minimum wage still leaves it far, far below a living wage and an opportunity has again been avoided to introduce a wealth tax, which 98% of households wouldn’t even notice.

“We need a wealth tax, which is why we need a progressive, left-led Government, who cares about the majority of people,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said an impact of the coronavirus pandemic – and one that can address the climate emergency – has been the new value people have found in smaller communities, towns, and villages.

Deputy Pringle said: “In dealing with Covid we are being asked to limit our movements and to stay local. Covid is going to be with us for a long time and surely supporting the development of infrastructure and resources in our towns and villages is the obvious way of achieving this.

“There is an opportunity now to support the development of rural communities, to build infrastructure for people to work locally, even if their employer is in Dublin.” He said this includes reliable communications infrastructure and requires local community hubs where people can work in proper offices.

“People being facilitated to work locally would see the re-opening of services such as post offices, doctors’ surgeries, shops, cafes and schools. It would also mean a reduction in travel and present opportunities for small scale, energy-efficient, office spaces. But this government hasn’t got the vision for that and has lost any connection with, or commitment to, the development of rural Ireland,” he said.

As well as showing a lack of vision, Budget 2021 was also produced with a lack of transparency, the deputy said.

Deputy Pringle said: “It is disingenuous to stand up in front of us, the media and the public, and make statements about investment, improvements and measures that have been previously announced.”

For example, he said: “I’m not going to spend too much time discussing the farcical ‘largest-ever budget on housing’ when the reality is that Budget 2021 contained just an increase of 593 new social housing homes to be built over previous Rebuilding Ireland targets. It is still following the developer-led, market-driven strategy of lining the pockets of landlords and developers which led to this crisis.”

Addressing other areas, Deputy Pringle said:

— “Mental health reform cautiously welcomed the €50m increase for mental health, which was broken down into €12m to maintain existing services, even though they asked for €30m.  This increase also does not go anywhere near the Sláintecare recommended investment of 10% of the health budget.”

— “The increase in the carbon tax is not a just transition. People in my constituency do not have the public transport available in Dublin. They are largely dependent on oil to fuel their car and to heat their homes. Donegal is also one of the most impoverished and disadvantaged counties in the country. To them, this is an unjust tax as they cannot afford to buy an electric car nor to match retrofitting funding. I am not against carbon tax but it cannot be targeted at those who can least afford to pay it. Carbon tax should target corporations and big businesses.”

— “We can’t mention climate change and not talk about farming in Ireland.  The point was made at Monday’s briefing that we seem to be looking at Ireland’s impact, without acknowledging the environmental cost of importing beef from Brazil, for example. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael continue to work with big AG, the Agri-food industry and major farm organisations which support the industrial model of food production to the detriment of smaller, more sustainable farmers.”

— “This budget had absolutely nothing for renters and I know that ‘hidden homelessness’ is one of the factors affecting this sector in my constituency of Donegal. Even though it is illegal to refuse to accept HAP, it remains an issue in Donegal, with the onus on renters to complain.”

— “Something that has not received much attention is the funding crisis for local authorities. While it is welcome that the Government announced measures to waive commercial rates for an affected business, this must be refunded to local authorities.”

Deputy Pringle concluded: “This budget creates uncertainty for civil society groups, organisations and people who know that the devil is in the detail and that there are often empty promises from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens. It is a wasted opportunity to put society and people at the heart of policymaking. It will make absolutely no difference to the people in the forgotten county of Donegal and it will exacerbate the isolation and loneliness that many already feel.”