TDs debate Budget 2015 in TCD

Andrew O’Donovan reports on DUBES’ post-budget analysis event.

newsIrish people should “forget this unemployment number” and instead focus on the government’s employment target of 2 million people, Fine Gael TD, Tom Barry, said at yesterday’s Dublin University Business and Economics Society (DUBES) post-budget analysis event.

Speaking to about 60 students in the GMB,  Barry said that Budget 2015 was “a good budget that makes our system work.” In contrast to circumstances faced in 2011, the government is now in a position to “reward people who have contributed,” he said. The Fine Gael TD for Cork East also defended water charges, saying that there are “people in this country who want to pay for nothing”.

But Barry Cowen, Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on environment and local government, who also spoke at the event, branded the Government’s annual financial statement an “election budget … with no social and economic vision.” He said that it was “arguably one of the most leaked and spun budgets” and devised to “take the edge off many of the worst decisions” of the Fine Gael/Labour coalition. Cowen derided the “empty rhetoric of this government’s fiscal policy” and the lack of “innovative ideas to energise and invigorate towns and villages.” The Fianna Fáil of opposition has “learnt from the past” and will “support what works and oppose what doesn’t” in contrast to the “say-no-to-everything policy of Sinn Féin,” he said. He insisted that, “rather than rushing to tax cuts and spending increases”, the government should “take a step back to address deficiencies [caused by austerity].”

Labour was represented at the event by minister of state for equality, new communities and culture, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who spoke of the necessity to “maintain a threshold of decency” and pointed to the party’s hope to implement a living wage – the wage considered necessary to meet basic living costs. He outlined how a worker earning €25,000 would be 4.6% better off through income tax and universal social charge cuts, and how a worker earning €75,000 would be 2.9% better off. He said that the language of society had become monetised, and urged that we remember that we are “living in a society and not just an economy.”

Last to speak was Jim Stewart from College’s School of Business. While he was positive about the Irish economy, Stewart made a pointed remark about seeking to de-politicise the overly-positive economic outlook. He noted that Ireland has benefited greatly from the recoveries in two of Ireland’s principal export markets, the US and the UK, and the devaluation of the euro against their respective currencies. He stated that, according to the International Monetary Fund, inflation-adjusted income-per-capita in Ireland won’t reach pre-recession until 2017, and that, therefore, “to some extent, economic growth is over-stated.” Regarding the closing of the infamous “Double Irish” tax loophole, he warned that there was “a risk that the corporation tax base is in danger” as a result of multinational companies in Ireland moving their operations to the region in which they will be taxed.