Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has thrown down the environmental gauntlet to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil by insisting next week’s budget must be the start of a decade of green policies to save the country.
Mr Ryan made the claim at the launch of his party’s alternative budget, saying “a decade-long strategy for a carbon neutral Ireland” is vital if a “secure future for the next generation” is to be achieved.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday just hours before Labour launched a separate alternative budget, Mr Ryan said his party — which potentially holds the keys to power for Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin after the next general election — said Tuesday’s budget must be draped in green.While taking account of the looming no deal Brexit threat,
The Greens leader said his party wants Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe to introduce:
- A €1.1bn package to address the climate and biodiversity crisis;
- €475m for sustainable transport, €100m for afforestation and €75m for organic farming;
- A €300m fund for the cost of renting;
- €200m for a major housing retrofit programme;
- €275m more for parents through an increase in the qualified child allowance.
“All over the island of Ireland, our natural world is in crisis and native species are in severe decline,” said Mr Ryan, flanked by party deputy leader Catherine Martin and finance spokewoman Neasa Hourigan.
“The Government must harness one of our best national assets.”
At a separate launch hours later, Labour leader Brendan Howlin warned the Fine Gael economic “recovery” is failing to work for large parts of the country, saying some areas still face 8% unemployment rates while one in four are working low-paying jobs.
With the threat of a no deal Brexit looming on the horizon, he said vulnerable people must be protected, in next Tuesday’s budget, with specific measures needed to improve employment levels in areas outside of Dublin.
Among the proposals put forward by Labour are plans to:
- Reduce prescription charges by €1;
- Halve hospital inpatient and outpatient fees;
- Allow free GP care for under-18s;
- Put €10m aside to increase defence forces pay and allowances;
- Create a €12.30c per hour “living wage”.
Labour housing spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan also said the party wants to introduce a rent freeze for one to three years to help people struggling to live in their own homes, similar to a freeze introduced by Labour during the 2011-2016 Fine Gael-Labour government.A €10 carbon tax increase has also been suggested, while Mr Howlin confirmed during the press conference he wants the bank levy to remain until all of the €41bn in still-to-be-returned public money poured into financial institutions has been repaid - which at current levy levels would take 160 years.