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Taoiseach Micheál Martin T.D. Budget Debate Dáil Éireann

Check Against Delivery

Ceann Comhairle,

In the midst of all of the noise which these days surrounds the Budget it is important to step back and to look at the direction of our economy and its ability to support strong public services.

It is remarkable how rarely in the last two and half years the opposition has actually even mentioned the economy – and now that we have secured a rapid increase in employment levels – even parties which like to pretend to be the voice of workers have nothing whatsoever to say about employment.

There is a fundamental divide in this House between those who want to do the hard work of developing and implementing policies to secure both economic and social progress, and those who play empty and cynical politics. It is a divide between those who want to solve problems and those who want to exploit them.

The desperate flaying around which we have seen from the opposition as it searches for a consistent line of attack reinforces the fact that this is a balanced and ambitious budget which helps people at a moment of real need and delivers progress on urgent issues.

While protecting our economy and its ability to create jobs and fund public services, it ensures that we can withstand future shocks.

And surely if there is one thing we should all understand from the last two and a half years it is that shocks are happening more often than ever and it is irresponsible to fail to plan for them.

Pandemic & Recovery

The single most important background to this Budget is that it shows that Ireland has come strongly through the pandemic and the fastest-hitting recession of the last century.

It is genuinely remarkable how Sinn Fein and others can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge what has been achieved and that this government’s actions have been central to helping our country through the pandemic, saving lives and delivering the fastest recovery recorded in Europe.

At the heart of it this is a widening gap in this House. Never before has there been an opposition so completely disinterested in the overall economic picture. Never before have we seen an opposition which has absolutely no concern for the need to have an economy strong enough to generate revenue for social supports.

The facts show that the twin public health and economic emergency which hit our country and the rest of the world have been overcome.

Ireland rolled out one of the most successful vaccine programmes in the world, recorded dramatically fewer deaths than other countries and ensured a rapid economic recovery.

Today there are over 400,000 more jobs in our economy than there were on the day this government took up office.

Our interventions saved businesses, saved jobs and saved family finances. That is why we today have the resources available to implement an unprecedented range of measures to help families and businesses in the middle of a dramatic international crisis.

€45 billion was made available by Government, with in excess of €20 billion alone provided in direct support for workers and businesses.

This was expensive, but necessary and appropriate, given the nature of the challenge faced and the needs of our people.

Our exit from the Pandemic coincided with new challenges, and the weaponisation, by Russia, of European and global energy supplies.

We are now experiencing the highest rates of inflation in decades.

This is weighing heavily on the growth outlook for the economy as well as bringing significant uncertainty.

This situation is having the biggest impact on households with lower incomes, as the proportion of their income spent on energy increases to new levels while they are trying to cope with other cost of living pressures.

Ar fud na hEorpa, tá boilsciú, arb é an costas fuinnimh atá ag ardú, an cogadh san Úcráin agus deacrachtaí leanúnacha sa slabhra domhanda soláthair is cúis leis, ardaithe go dtí na leibhéil is airde anois leis na deicheanna de bhlianta, agus anuas air sin tá dúshlán ó ghlúin go glúin ann i dtaobh an chostais maireachtála.

Mar a tharla le linn COVID, ní bheidh aon easpa ar an Rialtas, agus le Buiséad 2023, cuirfimid freagairt chuimsitheach, spriocdhírithe agus éifeachtach i bhfeidhm chun poist a chosaint agus chun cuidiú le teaghlaigh.

The overall budget strategy which we unveiled yesterday by Ministers McGrath and Donohue achieves three major things; it ensures that we have the resources to respond to new emergencies; it provides major support for families to help when international events are driving up prices; and it delivers action on a range of vital public issues.

Everybody who is being honest about the major pressures of rising prices accepts that the dominant causes of inflation here are international. The facts show that inflation in Ireland is just below the average in Europe and the UK.

Some of the factors pushing up prices, and especially energy prices, will hopefully be short-term in their impact and prices will follow the historical trend and reverse. Others will likely be more permanent.

Whatever the cause, we fully understand the scale of the impact these rising prices are having and we are responding with the measures that are part of a Budget which of €11 billion. It is, in both relative and absolute terms, the largest ever programme of direct support for families and businesses.

As well as delivering tax and social protection improvements, our Budget encompasses action across a full range of issues. It directly helps families with children. It helps older people. It helps students. It helps apprentices. It helps renters. It helps small businesses. It helps farmers – and it helps many other groups.

And, as was the case with our first two Budgets, the biggest benefits go to those who are most in need.

During last night’s debate we heard quite an amount of fake outrage from the opposition claiming that this was a Budget for wealthy people. This is nonsense – and it’s a conclusion which can only be reached by misrepresenting the tax packages and ignoring all of the direct supports we are funding.

What we have seen is a desperate and cynical attempt to import the rhetoric seen in recent British debates. The opposition would clearly have loved for us to produce a regressive package focused overwhelmingly on higher earners. We didn’t do that, we helped every family and did so in a progressive way – but they are carrying on regardless.

Every single independent report produced here or internationally has said that our policies have been highly progressive in redistributing resources. To refuse to acknowledge that is to refuse to accept reality.

The progressive nature of budgets is central to our programme as a government, but it is important to make the point that we completely reject the idea of Sinn Fein that people of average and above incomes should never be allowed to benefit from any income tax change.

This is a zero-sum mentality which I believe is not shared by the Irish people.

When all social payments and other income-linked measures are considered this is, by any objective measure a fair and progressive Budget – so please go somewhere else in your desperate search for a fight on this matter.

The independent Fiscal Advisory Council in a statement issued yesterday evening confirmed that the special supports provided in the Budget are in fact even more targeted than in previous years.

Over the last week it has also been shown that governments have to be careful in responding to inflation. They can make matters worse in many different ways.

We were determined to deal with the urgency of the impact of inflation but also to not add further fuel to the fire and to protect the basic soundness of the public finances.

The provision of reserves means that we can both respond to any new events and we can guard the very real issue of revenues which may not be permanent.

I very much welcome the statement by the Fiscal Advisory Council in relation to the Budget. It has confirmed that all of the core assumptions underpinning the Budget are in line with independent forecasts.

The Council has also noted “The use of the Reserve Fund is welcome. It is in line with the Council’s advice to unwind the State’s overreliance on excess corporation tax receipts gradually over time and build up a buffer that can be used in future downturns.”

As I mentioned before, the Council notes that spending has been increased significantly in response to inflation and that the majority of funding is targeted at groups in need.

The Fiscal Advisory Council also says that, in its view, the Budget strikes a balance between providing support and avoiding adding to inflation.

So, the first independent review of the Budget by the body charged by the Oireachtas to review fiscal policy has found it to be progressive, generous and responsible.

The distributional effects of Budget 2023 were also assessed using the ESRI’s SWITCH model and found it to be strongly progressive.

The winter Cost of Living measures will boost the net disposable income of the lowest income households, that is, those in the lowest two deciles of income by 5% compared with 0.7% for the highest income households – those in the two top income deciles.

The core Budget 2023 package will boost the net disposable income of the lowest income households by 5.8% compared with 2.3% of the highest income households.

I know that is uncomfortable for the opposition to hear, but it is a balance which is central to us being able to deliver for people.

A major problem in these debates is that they are deeply unbalanced. On one side the Government has produced detailed proposals on every area of public spending and taxation, costed them down to exact figures and shown the short and medium-term impact of these measures.

On the other side we have policy soundbites and figures which don’t come close to adding up or providing an alternative.

For example, the costings which we’ve heard from Sinn Fein in relation to housing are a complete fantasy.

It’s time we ended the charade of opposition parties claiming “everything is costed” but hiding the detail and never addressing the total cost of services or the impact of taxes.

Cost of Living Measures

As I have said, this Budget of €11 billion helps families and businesses to cope with the impact of rising prices.

There’s no ‘trickle down’ side of this – it’s direct and substantial aid with those most in need seeing the biggest benefit.

The single biggest measure, costing nearly €900 million is a permanent increase in social welfare payments of €12 – the largest ever increase in these payments and part of the largest ever social protection package.

We reject the Sinn Fein idea of giving less to pensioners. They deserve our support and we will continue to oppose the idea that they should be treated unequally. It will apply to all people who receive a principal social welfare payment.

Low income families will benefit in a range of ways.

More will qualify for the Working Family Payment, the Qualified Child Allowance and Fuel Allowance are being increased, and so too are payments to carers and people on community employment schemes. This is on top of benefiting from other once-off measures addressing inflation.

And families with young children will benefit from a cut of up to 25% in the cost of childcare – part of a package which will dramatically increase support for those working in the sector and for quality childcare places.

This is a historic move, representing a decisive step towards accessible and affordable childcare for all. Minister O’Gorman will ensure that this support is rapidly put in place and benefiting families.

These are each, permanent improvements in state supports which will directly help households in need.

But in light of the enormous increase in energy prices we are going further than this and are doing much more.

There are too many measures to deal with them individually, but it is necessary to mention the €600 reduction in energy bills which we are implementing.

This is a practical, substantial, credible and immediate support for all households at a very tough moment.

We’ve chosen this way of helping people with bills because it is more direct and sustainable than alternatives. It is an approach being followed in the majority of countries.

It is very different from the populist soundbite of capping prices proposed by Sinn Fein. As we’ve seen elsewhere, it can completely destabilize markets and is not sustainable.

And we want to be very clear, we will go after windfall profits by energy companies. Where they are state-owned, the profits will go back to fund public supports and services – where they are not we will take other measures.

We’ll work in Europe to agree a common approach to these profits and, if we have to, we will go further.

I know that the opposition would love to claim that we are somehow siding with big energy companies over the Irish people, but the fact is that we are doing everything to reduce costs for people and to block excess profits.

We understand the critical role which a strong business sector plays in creating jobs and supporting both our economy and our society.

Small and medium sized companies are facing enormous pressures because of energy prices and they need our assistance. That’s why we are introducing both a targeted support for exporting companies which are energy intensive and a wider measure which is open to all businesses.

This will be directly linked to increased costs and could be worth up to €10,000 a month.

That will help them get through the enormous challenges they are facing today, as will the wider economic stimulus provided by the Budget.

Climate Change

The surge in energy prices has reinforced the urgent need for us to move to carbon neutrality. The dramatic challenge of limiting climate change goes hand in hand with securing a sustainable and affordable energy supply.

Minister Ryan yesterday outlined details of actions we are implementing across the economy to expand public transport, reduce energy usage and support energy independence.

We are accelerating and scaling-up our drive to create a new economy based on clean energy – one which provides good jobs throughout the country and can make Ireland a leader in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Hand in hand with this we are pushing forward with measures to protect and restore the biodiversity which should define our island.

There are those here who like to talk a good game about climate change, but ultimately oppose every tough decision. As with so many other areas, they run away from anything they think might be popular – no matter how fundamental it is to tackling the problem.

And of course, they remain hurlers on the ditch when it comes to setting out specific targets and actions to deliver on those targets.

Carbon taxes are an essential part of a credible plan to tackle climate change. That’s a simple fact. So, we will never agree with Sinn Fein’s opposition to carbon taxes. They are essential to both changing behaviour and funding a fair and inclusive transition to a sustainable economic and environmental model.

This policy is the shared view of this government and, just as importantly, it is critical to meeting the historic challenge of limiting climate change. As we agreed in the Programme for Government, every cent raised by the Carbon Tax is going directly to support people in fuel poverty, investing in energy efficiency, helping workers and communities impacted by the transition and developing a new industry in this field.

In light of the scale of the pressure on fuel prices we have acted to offset the impact of changes at the pump – but we must not and we will not back off from the core climate change agenda of this government.

And this Budget should help to lay to rest once and for all the false idea that tackling climate change is a threat to our rural economy.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. More than any other sector, farming is hit by the extreme weather events which are occurring ever more frequently. But more importantly farmers and the rural economy in general stand to directly benefit from cheaper, sustainable energy and high-quality food sectors.

And let me be clear, we will continue to do whatever it takes to ensure that we have a vibrant and successful rural economy while also urgently tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis.

Over €80 million in carbon tax funding is going directly to farmers next year. This will be used to fund the new agri-climate rural environment scheme we have set out in our CAP Strategic Plan.

This will support up to 50,000 farmers who undertake actions that will support improved outcomes on biodiversity, climate, air and water quality.

Because of the continued impact of Brexit on the agri-food sector, there will also be over €280 million allocated to the sector. Minister McConalogue has set out an ambitious and urgent plan of action which will continue as long as necessary.

That shows a real and sustained commitment to farming, agri-food businesses and rural Ireland in general.

Public Investment and Services

Central to our programme for government is an agreed priority to invest in developing our public services and investment programmes. For the third Budget in a row, our public services will see significant developments and the largest programme of capital development in our history will be funded.


Delivering affordable housing for all takes sustained action across all sectors and across a series of years. Every honest person accepts that making progress on housing takes time – and the facts show our Housing for All policy is beginning to have a very significant impact.

The way to make housing affordable is for there to be more housing, to train more people to build and refurbish houses, to remove major delays to housing projects and to help buyers and renters at key moments.

The Dáil yesterday heard speech after speech attacking us on housing, claiming that we are in the pockets of various groups and committed to a right-wing ideology. This is absolute nonsense.

Because of this government, the state is now by far the biggest actor in housing construction. We are directly intervening to ensure affordability and we have begun a radical new era of building social housing.

Next year €4.5 billion will be spend on building and refurbishing homes – by some distance the largest programme of social and affordable housing in Irish history.

The highest level of housing commencements since records began was recorded over the twelve months to May.

Last year saw the highest number of first-time buyers in a decade and a half – with our Help to Buy scheme and other measures starting to have an impact.

And in this Budget, we introduced a range of measures to directly support people – including a €1,000 per person aid for renters over the next 12 months.

There is no area where Sinn Fein is more callously cynical than housing. Its only interest is to exploit the very real pressures which individuals and families face.

As we saw when Minister O’Brien debated the Sinn Fein spokesperson earlier this year, the soundbites simply do not stack up to even the most basic scrutiny.

The costings and building numbers are little more than inventions designed to claim to have a plan rather than to actually have one.

But it is certainly true that there are key differences between us when it comes to those few areas where Sinn Fein has actually detailed its policies.

We support the principle of home ownership and prioritising the interests of first-time buyers in the market. Sinn Fein wants to abolish the Help to Buy Scheme, abolish the First Home Scheme and abolish the Croi Conaithe vacant and derelict properties scheme.

Together these schemes have helped many thousands of households and will help thousands more in the years to come – yet Sinn Fein’s ideological opposition to helping people buy homes would see these scrapped.

And while they profess to care about the undeniable difficulties faced by private renters, the reality is that its plans would lead the near elimination of the entire sector.

Blocking private owners from being able to limit tenancies, prevent the sale of properties and a host of other restrictions would lead to an even worse situation then we face today.

As with so many areas, the core tactic of Sinn Fein on housing has been to hope that the media lacks the time or inclination to look beyond the soundbites and examine its policies fully. This Budget marks a moment when its cynicism has caught up with it.


We all saw during the pandemic the incredible quality of our health professionals and a system which saved so many lives.

While it faces very serious challenges, our health system has expanded dramatically and is treating more people with better outcomes than ever before.

But we must go much further and that is what we are doing.

The Budget delivers on our commitment to continue to expand the core capacity of our acute hospitals – with more health professionals and more acute hospital beds.

A series of initiatives will link with this capacity to treat tens of thousands of people on waiting lists and to reduce the waiting times faced by all.

But we are going much further to improve access and quality.

This year we removed in patient charges for under-16s and next year we will remove them for all patients.

And next year we will widen the eligibility for the GP card which will allow many thousands more people to be covered.

And allied to general measures like this we will push forward with our plans to develop new services.

Women’s health services will receive major support including expanding free contraception from 25 to 30 from September next, providing supports for the first time in relation to IVF treatment, expanding women's health hubs and providing additional funding for screening. Minister Donnelly has set out our ambitious objectives for these and other services.

As Minister Mary Butler has detailed, a further major increase in mental health services will be implemented. Support for older people with a range of needs will also be extended as will the development of the Minister’s highly innovative and important dementia strategy.

Minister Anne Rabbitte has also set details of nearly €30 million in new funding for expanded disability services.


Education has been a priority in each of our Budgets and this year we are going further again to strengthen our schools, help families, support children with special needs and improve the learning environment for all.

This Budget will support a record number of building and refurbishment projects.

Another reduction in the pupil teacher ratio.

Over a thousand new Special Needs Assistants.

These and a range of other measures will help us to further develop inclusive and quality education.

The introduction of free books for primary school students is a radical move to comprehensively address one of the big costs facing families and it will benefit half a million children next year.

Our commitment to education extends to the higher education and training sector – where direct aid will benefit every student and increased funding will help strengthen the system as a whole.

Culture & Media

At this time of increasing division, angry debate and growing populism, ensuring that we have diverse and professional cultural and media communities in Ireland is more important than ever. Yesterday we signalled the beginning of a new era of support for culture and media in Ireland.

As Minister Catherine Martin has outlined, she will be implementing range of innovative and comprehensive schemes to support activity in all parts of our country.

While the Arts Council will receive record funding, a specific initiative will be implemented to support the night-time cultural economy and help organisations meet rising costs. The basic income scheme for artists will continue. Sports and language initiatives will be expanded.

However, it is important to specifically not the range of spending and tax initiatives which we are putting in place to support the Irish media.

As we enter the third decade of widespread access to the internet and the new dominance of social media we need to decide whether or not we want an independent professional media in our country.

If we do nothing then the brute force of technology and competition will do here what it is doing in much of the world – the media will become dominated by falling standards, falling employment and an increasingly shrill public space. And if this happens the first thing which will disappear is coverage of local events.

I believe that just as we need to support Irish cultural creativity so too we need to support professional journalism.

There is a public good in a profession which seeks to inform the public on the basis of clear ethics, balanced research and the ability to challenge both itself and all parts of our society.

We can secure another century as a growing democracy if we have a media which has security to enable it to operate to the highest standards.

That is why we are abolishing VAT on published media and we are significantly expanding direct funding for public service broadcasting.

We are also creating a new media grant scheme which will prioritise coverage of local democracy and the justice system and establishing an independent commission for online safety and media – addressing an urgent and growing need.


The Budget announced yesterday is a broad programme of action.

It protects our economy against further shocks in the future while delivering help to people at a moment of real need.

It is a fair and progressive budget, which benefits all but gives the greatest support to those with the greatest need.

It underpins initiatives to address urgent needs and long-term development across key public services and national challenges.

In housing, health, education, rural communities, social protection, culture and many other areas it enables w die range of new initiatives.

It is an ambitious, credible and detailed plan for helping our country at a difficult moment and developing public services in the service of all of the Irish people.