“In his attempts today to cast doubt on Government plans to phase out the Universal Social Charge, Micheál Martin reveals the desire of Fianna Fáil to cling to what was an unfair approach to taxation,” says Fine Gael Kildare South TD, Martin Heydon.
“Fianna Fáil introduced the USC as an emergency taxation measure after they presided over the destruction of our economy. The comments of Micheál Martin today suggest they are still clinging desperately to this unfair tax, despite the fact that the economy is now recovering under the stewardship of Fine Gael.
“The first thing Fine Gael did on coming into office was to try redress the balance of fairness in how the recession had impacted on people. A starting point for us was dealing with this Fianna Fáil tax. We began by taking the lowest paid people out of the USC net, and since then, 450,000 low and middle earners have been exempted from USC as a result of this Government’s fair approach.
“Furthermore, Fine Gael’s record shows that we have always sought to prioritise lower earners. As well as removing low earners from the USC net when we entered office in 2011, we also restored the minimum wage back to what it was before it was cut by Fianna Fáil. In the recent Budget, Fianna Fáil wanted to limit the €5 increase to OAPs, whereas we managed to find a way to include other deserving groups such as carers, widows, lone parents and people with disabilities.
“We have never suggested the immediate abolition of the USC; that would be irresponsible and would hamper our plans to ensure the provision of better public services for people and communities all around Ireland, now that the economy is recovering. The Programme for Government commits the Partnership Government to the continued phasing out of the USC in a sustainable way and outlines a number of tax reforms to help fund this policy.
“The hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil knows no bounds here. They want to ride both horses as usual. While criticising Government plans to take low and middle earners out of USC, they neglect to mention that they actually wanted more tax cuts that Fine Gael did prior to the last election. Their manifesto contained €2.92 billion worth of tax cuts, while the tax package in Fine Gael’s manifesto amounted to €2.46 billion.
“Fine Gael’s vision is that a job is the best way out of poverty and so our approach to taxation has always struck that balance between achieving fairness and protecting jobs. Only an economy supporting people at work can pay for the services needed to create a fair society. Through the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, unemployment has fallen to 7.7% from a high of 15.2% in 2011. We are determined to use the recovering economy to ensure that people and communities all over Ireland can benefit from better public services and live decent and fulfilling lives.”