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Senator Bacik speaking on the Pensions Levy and Bishop Richard Williamson

04 February 2009

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: I echo the calls by Senator O'Toole and others for a debate today on the Government's economic package. I take issue with those on the other side of the House who suggest we are not being constructive. We need to take issue constructively with the elements of the package that has been proposed by the Government. We have heard the mantra from Senator Boyle, the Minister, Deputy Harney, and others on this morning's radio that it is unpopular and therefore it is right. Just because something is unpopular does not mean it is right.

We all accept the need for the public service to pay its share and to make sacrifices at this difficult time. However, what seems profoundly unfair, and the reason some elements of this package are profoundly unpopular, is the profoundly inequitable way in which this is being done. To insist that the lowest paid in the public service, the nurses and teachers we have been hearing about, would bear such a disproportionate burden of the pension levy is most unfair. Those of us in the public service who earn more should be asked to pay more.

We had this debate last year when the Government proposed a 1% levy, which they were to impose equally on all up to a certain level, and it had to revise that. It saw it was profoundly inequitable to charge the same percentage levy on the lowest paid. It must do the same U-turn on the pension levy. It would be most unfair to charge people on €15,000 and €20,000 a 3% levy to pay for pensions. We need to revise this.

There is real concern among public sector workers that they are being scapegoated while they have done nothing wrong and done nothing to contribute to the dreadful state of the economy. They have not seen bankers' pay being cut. President Obama has proposed a cap on bankers' pay in the US and we need to debate a cap on bankers' earnings here in Ireland also.

That would make it appear more equitable and would make it easier to bear the pain of these unpopular measures. We need to engage constructively and we need to do so today.

I also ask that the Leader would take on board the wording I proposed to him last week of a cross-party motion from this House calling on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to grant Pamela Izevbekhai and her daughters leave to stay here on humanitarian grounds. I e-mailed the motion to the Leader and some other Senators who had expressed support. I believe there is cross-party support. The motion I have drafted refers to “notwithstanding any legal proceedings” and it simply asks the Minister to grant the family leave to stay here on humanitarian grounds. I ask the Leader to take up that and put it to the House tomorrow.

I welcome Senator Mullen's expression of support for the separation of church and State. I am delighted to hear it.

Many of us have long called for a true separation of church and State in Ireland, particularly in the education and health care systems, and I am delighted to hear Senator Mullen support that.

I take objection to the way he lectures anyone who dares to criticise the Pope's decision or the Vatican State's decision on Bishop Richard Williamson, who clearly denied the Holocaust on Swedish television, which is appalling. Chancellor Angela Merkel is correct to make a diplomatic issue of this with the Vatican State.