Week’s events: Budget 2015, Jake’s Legacy campaign & Irish Rail’s Best Station Awards

19th October, 2014

Much of the focus of this week centred around the Budget, which was announced in the Dáil on Tuesday by Ministers Noonan and Howlin. This is the first Budget since 2008 where some alleviation could be given to people, as we wrestled with getting our finances back under control over the last number of years.  The number one objective of this Budget is to secure the recovery and ensure the sacrifice made by the Irish people are not wasted. We can do this by concentrating on getting people off the dole and back to work.


This Budget is intended as the first of three aimed at reforming our tax system. By providing relief to taxpayers, in the form of reduced income tax and a rise in the entry point for USC, we can secure the recovery and build on the consumer confidence we have being experiencing of late.


Our income tax rates for low and middle income earners are way out of line with comparative countries. For this reason we have raised the threshold for the top rate of tax to almost €34,000, cut the top rate to 40% and taken 80,000 out of the USC net.


Relief is also being provided in the form of a partial reinstatement of the Christmas bonus, a rise in child benefit and allowances on water charges for working families and those in vulnerable positions.


More than 1,000 new teachers and teaching assistants will be hired, provision has been made for Gardái as well as new Garda vehicles, and a three year social housing programme is being initiated. From my own Department’s perspective, the retention of the lower 9% VAT rate will help secure jobs in tourist related industries and a new round of Sports Capital funding will allow for the upgrading of clubhouses and premises in communities across the country.


Outside of Budget related goings on, I had what was my fourth meeting with the Jake’s Legacy campaign. Following the death of six year old Jake Brennan, the campaign has been working to have reduced speed limits introduced in housing estates around the country. On Wednesday, I issued a circular to all Local Authorities calling for a review of the speed limits currently in place and calling for engagement with local communities about whether or not this speeds are appropriate or if they need to be reduced. A process is now in place and I will be following up on the progress being made over the coming weeks and months in respect of making our local streets and neighbourhoods safer for our cyclists and pedestrian, especially our children.


I was in front of the Oireachtas Committee on transport for the first time this week as the Minister for Transport, giving an outline of my priorities and the work I have been doing since my appointment.


I also attended the Iarnród Éireann Best Station Awards which saw Hazelhatch being named Overall Best Train Station in Ireland and awards also being given for Best Regional Stations/ Best DART Station/ Best Commuter Station/ Best Commuter Service. Customers were asked to rate their station under on  Customer Information, Station Appearance, Staff Helpfulness and Staff Appearance, with almost 15,000 people voting as part of the competition.


I also attended the Green Hospitality Conference, the theme of which was making responsible tourism pay. Speakers outlined the need to incorporate environmental policy into everything we do in tourism if we are to ensure that the excellent product we have on offer now is sustained into the future.


On Friday, I paid a visit to Larkin College in Cathal Brugha Street, so that the children there could tell me about the soccer scholarship being run there and the impact it is having on their lives. I was in East Wall and Annamoe in Cabra during the evenings this week.