Almost 100 people attended a pre-budget 2017 community consultation meeting held by Mary Fitzpatrick on September 13th 2016.
Mary chaired the meeting and Michael McGrath TD outlined Fianna Fáil’s priority of achieving a fair and sustainable budget which invests in public services and supports those who need it most.
Many who attended spoke passionately and informatively of the needs in Dublin central including some of the following issues:
Need for investment in services for people with disabilities. A representative from the Daughters of Charity highlighted the fact that there has been no new residential services since 2008. There are currently 16 individuals in crises situations and in urgent need of residential services. This was noted by Michael McGrath and he committed to raising it within Fianna Fáil.
Need for housing. A number of speakers including a representative from the Capuchin Day Center highlighted the desperate housing crises in Dublin Central. There are approximately 300 young people living in unsuitable emergency accommodation. Mary identified publicly owned sites zoned for residential development that remain undeveloped. Mary called for capital investment in both social and affordable housing. Mary highlighted not just the more than 10,000 applications for social housing but also the many teachers, nurses, Gardaí, artists and entrepreneurs who cannot afford a home in Dublin Central and the 1,000s living in rented accommodation. Mary called for a reversal of the previous government’s decision to abolish affordable housing and for state investment in housing. Michael McGrath outlined Fianna Fáils Housing policy which is designed to help existing homeowners and increase homeownership through investment in social, affordable and private housing.
A request was made by young people for Fianna Fáil to prioritise funding for third level education and to abolish fees. Michael McGrath said Fianna Fáil would not lie to young people like Labour had or make false promises to abolish university fees. He stated Fianna Fáils commitment to fund third level and ensure that it was affordable so that every young person has equal opportunity through education.
One person raised an issue with what he saw as ease with which Irish Passports can be obtained and the inadequacy of laws governing sub-letting of residential accommodation. Michael McGrath explained the process.
Government’s policy for the management of community services was strongly criticised by a number of speakers from youth services, taskforces and other organisations. The view was strongly expressed that Government has “outsourced” essential community services to voluntary community organisations, is insufficiently funding the services and at the same time making voluntary boards of management accountable. It is not sustainable. This was noted by Michael McGrath and he committed to raising it within Fianna Fáil.
The inadequacy of government funding for addiction services was highlighted and a request made to have increased funding for residential detox services. This was noted by Michael McGrath and he committed to raising it within Fianna Fáil.
Cuts to funding for Youth Services was highly criticised with speakers questioning the value of the “savings” and the yet to be realised long-term costs. This was noted by Michael McGrath and he committed to raising it within Fianna Fáil.
Questions were raised about the Haddington Road Agreement, the USC and pension entitlements. Michael expressed Fianna Fáil’s commitment to Haddington road. He stressed that any reduction in the USC would come at a costs to public services. Fianna Fáil does not support its abolition but a reduction for low and middle earners. He committed to supporting the elderly but explained that a €5 increase in the state pension would cost approximately €250m out of a possible €1billion budget so he couldn’t promise it.
Fianna Fáils opposition to Irish Water and the previous Governments unsustainable water regime was endorsed and an emphasis on water conservation was called for. This was noted by Michael McGrath and he committed to raising it within Fianna Fáil.
The unfairness of the Local Property Tax on Dublin homeowners was highlighted and a call for account to be taken of the inflated costs of homes in Dublin and people’s ability to pay. Fianna Fáil had brought forward amendments in this regard and will continue to work for a fairer tax.
There was a question about Credit Unions being engaged to help fund a massive house building programme which is something Fianna Fáil has repeatedly called for.
The Micro Credit Loans scheme was commended and speakers asked that it be continued and increased to cover debts up to €5,000 which Michael McGrath TD agreed with.
Unfortunately the Aughrim Street Parish Center closes at 10pm and the meeting finally called to a close just after 10.15.
Huge thanks to all who attended and to the Management and Staff at the Aughrim Street Parish Centre.