Thomas Pringle TD
Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said there have always been more pressing needs for funding than the Government’s “rainy day fund”.
In a Dáil debate yesterday afternoon, Deputy Pringle said: “For decades Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael majority governments have misspent public money. There is plenty of money in the country, but your priorities are all wrong.”
Addressing the Dáil on the National Surplus (Reserve Fund for Exceptional Contingencies) Act 2019, Deputy Pringle said: “Many of us in opposition argued at the time that the €1.5bn and subsequent annual amounts would be better spent on much-needed infrastructure.
“We asked for housing, for schools, for actions to address poverty. This year, we have seen that under-investment in housing exacerbated the spread of Covid-19 because so many live in cramped and overcrowded accommodation.
"We hear about schools thinking about taking more time off over winter because they don’t have proper ventilation systems to keep the teachers and students warm and safe.”
The €1.5bn fund was already drawn down for Budget 2021, Deputy Pringle said. He said initial plans to set aside €1bn per year had already been reduced to €500,000 million per year due to the exceptional circumstances of Brexit.
“And now we have the further exceptional circumstances of a global pandemic so we have to have this motion before us to ‘not to pay the prescribed amount’,” he said.
He added: “I’ve said this in other speeches during this Dáil but the Covid-19 pandemic has really highlighted the inequalities in our society.
"The normal social protection payments of €203 per week for disability allowance, for example, were deemed far too low for those who were temporarily laid off - they were to get €350 per week.
“I’m not saying that the pandemic unemployment payment should have been lower, I’m saying that our base social protection payments should be higher. Our student nurses and midwives should be paid.”
He said the September conference of St Vincent de Paul, Tackling Child Poverty Before and After Covid-19, highlighted the level of food poverty and hunger in single-parent households, calling it “tragic”.
The deputy said a no-deal Brexit, coupled with the ongoing pandemic, has been described as a perfect economic storm.
“January 1 is fast approaching. The perfect economic storm is not of our making and we will have to brace for it. But, as usual, it will be the most vulnerable, the many, who will be left out in the rain.
“Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens ‘rainy day fund’ was only for the few with big golf umbrellas,” he said.
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