Fr McVerry: Cutting top tax rate ‘obnoxious’

Fr Peter McVerry said the move will send out all the wrong messages on what Ireland's recovery means.

A leading anti-homelessness campaigner has described Government plans to prioritise top level tax rate cuts in the budget instead of addressing poverty-causing policies as "obnoxious".

Fr Peter McVerry said the plan completely ignores those worst-hit by the economic crash.

He was speaking at a public meeting of the McVerry Trust organised to call for an audit of empty buildings in Dublin to see if any could be used for housing.

As part of measures hinted at by ministers, Tuesday’s budget plan will reveal cuts to Ireland’s 52% highest income tax rate.

The policy has been described by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as “anti-employment and anti-enterprise”, while Finance Minister Michael Noonan has suggested Budget 2015 will be the “first step of a multi-annual plan” to bring it down.

However, Fr McVerry said the move will send out all the wrong messages on what Ireland’s recovery means for the nation.

Hitting out at the prioritisation of the plan, he said it effectively ignores the reality of life for people still gripped by the recession.

“There are an awful lot of people who are struggling,” the social campaigner, who has been to the forefront of anti-homelessness and poverty campaigns for over 30 years, explained.

“There are a lot of middle and low income people and I fully support any relief that can be given to them, but to reduce the top rate of tax excludes those people and only provides benefit to those that are better off in society. I would find that pretty obnoxious,” he said.

The McVerry Trust meeting was held on World Homeless Day, and is seeking an audit of all unused buildings in Dublin to address the crisis housing shortage.

Trust chief executive, Pat Doyle, said the examination should be seen as a “third element” to addressing the issue, in addition to the current focus on new social housing units and refurbishing local authority sites.

“We know many older buildings have a commercial operation on the ground floor but don’t utilise space above these premises. The upper stories are left vacant,” the senior official said.

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