Wednesday 23 October 2019

Stressed parents, unhappy pensioners and teenagers - Finance Minister answers questions from public live on air

Straight face: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presents Budget 2020 at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Reuters
Straight face: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presents Budget 2020 at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photo: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Reuters
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

STRESSED parents, unhappy pensioners and teenagers seeking more climate action told Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe that his budget did little to help them today.

The annual ‘phone in’ on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme suggests many people feel Budget 2020 will not make their lives easier.

Mr Donohoe opened by defending the €6-per-tonne hike to carbon tax, saying that he hopes the Government are "winning the argument".

He said "gradual moves" are needed and that his decisions have been "informed by the water charges".

"I’m informed by the experience of what it’s like to have consensus for change by many but not being able to deliver on it and the consequences that has for infrastructure," he said

Fifth year pupil Jane Prendergast from New Ross, Co Wexford complained that the minister missed an opportunity to introduce levies on single use plastics.

"Nothing was done in this year’s budget," she said.

Mr Donohoe responded that plans are in pace to reduce plastic use in the public sector – but the issue needs to be controlled on an EU level.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"We’re now working with the EU to see how this issue can be tackled across country.

"Ultimately I believe there are other ways to reduce the use of plastic rather than putting a tax on them for now," he said.

Over the course of an hour, Mr Donohoe heard from a number of carers who feel they were not considered in the Budget.

Treacy Carroll told how she had to give up work to take care of her child Willow, who has a brain injury.

However, as a result of her husband’s income she does not qualify for the carers’ allowance.

"Instead of means testing, look at the area of needs testing," she urged.

"I couldn’t pay somebody to work the hours that I work.

"If I was to work in the labour force it would be against the law, what I do.

"Look at what I’m saving the State, day in and day out," Treacy said.

Mr Donohoe said there isn’t anything he could ever do in a single budget to compensate people in this situation.

He pointed to the non-means tested domiciliary allowance as a payment available regardless of income – but admitted he hadn’t been increased in the Budget.

"We need to keep at it," he said.

Nuala Donlan argued that the Government should have stopped funding the greyhound industry to the tune of €16.8m and given the money to carers instead.

"I’m thinking this morning of all the carers’ around the country who open up the papers this morning and see there is nothing for them," she said.

Mr Donohoe said the overall budget for carers is €1.4bn.

A caller named Christopher criticised the minister for not taking more action to help "the hidden heroes of our economy".

He said his children in their 20s and 30s work hard but "unlike myself it seems they have got a bum deal on housing".

"In this budget you haven’t given a cent in tax relief to the victim of your housing policy," Christopher said, adding that young people are paying "vicious rent".

Mr Donohoe said he didn’t bring in a tax relief for renters as it could spur landlords to up their prices further.

He noted that the Help-to-Buy scheme has been extended and "progress" is being made on home building.

Cycling was raised by Clara Clarke who said the extra €9m for next year was insufficient.

"I don’t want to be terrified. I do want to continue cycling but you’re making it hell for people who want to cycle," she said while calling for "radical change".

The minister said the €9m was on top of the €146m already available for cycling.

"One of the things that I will do is that if we have an opportunity to increase carbon pricing in the future is use some of the money out of that to make more progress," he said.

Jon Williams questioned why the Government added 50 cent to the price of a packet of cigarettes but didn’t tax vaping.

Mr Donohoe said e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco and therefore don’t fall under normal excise rules.

"The EU is now reviewing the law in this area. I do have concern regarding the long-term public health impact of vaping," Mr Donohoe said.

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