Fianna Fáil to promise every citizen €188 every week
Published 28/12/2015 | 02:30
Fianna Fáil will promise every citizen of the country - from the richest to the poorest - a minimum welfare income in excess of current basic welfare rates which average €188 per week.
The pledge will come in the party's election manifesto to be launched in the new year and they insist it would be "a red line issue" in any prospective coalition negotiations. The party will undertake to set up an expert group to report within six months on matters like how much the minimum payment would be and what kind of taxation changes would be needed to fund it.
The basic minimum income would be billed as a major protection against poverty in an era where few will be guaranteed work throughout their lives.
Any income earned above the minimum welfare payment would be taxed at a single new rate - which would also have to be fixed but ideally somewhere around 25pc.
There are no detailed costings available as yet for the plan but total spending on all welfare transfers stand at about €30bn.
A major step towards the new system would be to refund tax credits to people whose income is too low to benefit - and that move is estimated to cost €140m per year.
The party will also argue that many sections of the population already receive considerable welfare payments, such as pensions or child benefit, which would be factored into the minimum income - making the final cost not vastly greater than current welfare spending.
Fianna Fáil welfare spokesman, Willie O'Dea, argued that the measure is a "long way there already in practice" and he says it has been looked at in detail by many experts in the recent past.
"Everyone with children under 16, or 18 if in full-time education, qualifies for child benefit, everyone over 66 qualifies for a pension, and many people qualify for other welfare payments.
"Our tax system currently grants a credit of €1,650 per year to every person," Mr O'Dea told the Irish Independent.
The Limerick TD argues that the move to minimum income would be a very radical anti-poverty measure which would give everyone a safety net at a time when the nature of work is vastly changed and fragmented.
"There is a growing body of work that proposes a system of basic income, such as this, as an important part of a modern welfare system. Fianna Fáil is committed to building a system of welfare and taxation appropriate for a just and equal developed Ireland in the 21st century," he argued.
Fianna Fáil believes that unused tax credits should be refunded to workers on the following basis.
This would apply where a worker is over 23 years of age and where they have a minimum income from employment of not less than €4,000 and not over €15,600 - or €31,200 in the case of a couple.
Mr O'Dea argues that poverty rates have been growing under the current government.
This signalled pledge by Fianna Fáil again shows that the election debate will be closely framed around work, incomes and taxation with a major focus on lower-paid workers.
Already both Sinn Féin and Labour have pledged to increase the minimum wage while Fine Gael has promised the same result via a welfare top up.