Fine Gael highlight 'progressive' moves while Sinn Fein bemoan 'same old failed economics'
FINE Gael politicians have heralded Budget 2017 as one which will improve the lives of children, entrepreneurs and working parents.
While accepting that many of the measures announced are modest, TDs insisted that the Budget will ensure the recovery is shared by all families.
Wexford TD Michael D'Arcy took a swipe at Fianna Fáil, saying the party was overly focused on rewarding old age pensioners.
"We are all in favour of fairness, but Fianna Fáil clearly is only in favour of fairness for some," Mr D'Arcy said. "The outcome has been one of fairness because Fine Gael ensured everybody in receipt of social welfare - such as the blind, carers and those on jobseekers - benefit from this budget."
Dublin-Rathdown TD Josepha Madigan said this Budget will make childcare more affordable as a result of the introduction of a subsidised scheme for the first time.
"Families are very much the focus of this budget. Parents across this country need affordable childcare options and the measures announced today will help deliver that," Ms Madigan said.
Clare TD Joe Carey said the decision to maintain the 9pc VAT rate for the hospitality sector will come as a relief to businesses.
"This was a progressive Budget," Mr Carey said, adding that health and childcare will particularly benefit.
"I'm particularly glad the Fine Gael government is now giving back money to people as opposed to taking it away. We are now ensuring the recovery is shared."
Measures in relation to tackling crime - such as the hiring of 800 additional gardaí - will benefit communities, according to Dublin South West TD Colm Brophy.
"During our last term in government we reopened the Garda training college in Templemore after Fianna Fáil closed it down. We remain committed to the ongoing growth and development of our police force and today's Budget is evidence of this," he said.
And Carlow/Kilkenny TD Pat Deering said the Budget will deliver in terms of rural and regional development.
"In Budget 2017 Fine Gael has made rural and regional development a top priority and we have delivered substantial funding to help create jobs and attract investment to rural Ireland. The Budget delivers on many of Fine Gael's commitments contained in the party's manifesto and the Programme for Government."
THE Independent Alliance has moved to claim credit for a raft of measures in the Budget, with two members announcing items for their own constituencies.
Transport Minister Shane Ross listed the reduction in the cap on prescription charges for the over-70s, an increase in the social welfare Christmas bonus and increases in inheritance tax thresholds as issues the Alliance fought for.
Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath highlighted more than €1.6bn in spending across health and social protection to support people with disabilities.
He called the provision of medical cards to children getting the domiciliary care allowance as “historic”.
Training and Skills Minister John Halligan said there will be €20m in extra spending on apprenticeships. Mr Ross said the Alliance “is proud to have a significant and influential contribution to shaping the Budget”.
Longford-Westmeath TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran said: “We’ve proved today on our first Budget that our footprints are all over [the Budget], nearly in every department.”
He announced plans for the building of a new school next year at Coosan near Athlone but denied his was the only constituency to benefit from a new school, saying it’s one of a number to be put out for tender soon.
Dublin Bay North TD Mr McGrath said he had secured funding for the planning stage of a new Emergency Department for Beaumont Hospital. He said it’s a project that “needed to be done 10 years ago” because of the “major crisis” at the hospital.
Minister for Flood Relief Sean Canney said any Budget measures – like those to
help farmers – that would benefit his Galway East constituency would be items that will help people nationwide. Mr Halligan said he’s still seeking funding for a new cardiac lab at his local hospital in Waterford.
FIANNA Fáil attempted to distance itself from several key elements of Budget 2017 - while still insisting that the party played a major part in improving the lives of families.
Michael McGrath, Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson, said his party ensured there was positive measures in areas such as health, education and social protection. “We didn’t get everything we wanted in this budget, but we have secured some vital progress on a number of priorities set out in that agreement – including in health, social protection, education, housing and fair reductions in the universal social charge.”
However, Mr McGrath described the Government plans to meet the challenge of Brexit as “absolutely pathetic”.
“You have provided €3m extra on the Jobs and Enterprise department...It’s pathetic, absolutely pathetic,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s public expenditure spokesperson Dara Calleary insisted his party “did not write the budget”.
Mr Calleary said his party acted on a “clear message” from the electorate that public services must be prioritised over tax cuts.
“The Irish people sent an overwhelming message that fairness in public policy and associated and necessary investment in public services was their highest priority,” he said.
Fianna Fáil’s big win in the budget was securing a five euro increase in the old age pension. The party’s social protection minister Willie O’Dea said his party has helped secure a roll-back of five years of regressive policies.
“Fianna Fáil has forced Fine Gael to draw a line in the sand on its regressive budgetary policies. Without the influence of Fianna Fáil, in opposition, Fine Gael would have been free to continue with their right wing agenda when it comes to social welfare,” he said.
The party’s housing spokesperson Barry Cowen criticised what he said is a lack of measures to shake-up the rental market.
The Offaly TD also expressed concern over the design of the new first-time buyers scheme.
SINN Féin attacked the Budget by describing the Government’s failure to invest more in services as a “missed opportunity”.
The party’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Fine Gael-led Partnership Government’s “backroom budget” lacked vision and did not take lessons from the past.
During his Dáil speech, Mr Doherty said the “real test” of the Budget would be how it affects homeless children living in hotels and old people stuck for hours on trollies in hospitals.
“When the results of that test are looked at, what will the result be? Complete failure,” he said.
Mr Doherty said the cuts to the Universal Social Charge (USC) meant that a worker earning €35,000 would receive a “paltry €3.30 a week”.
“It won’t go far when the bank is ripping you off on your mortgage and sending the kids to college costs the same as another mortgage,” he added.
The party’s public expenditure and reform spokesman David Cullinane said the Budget was aimed at keeping Taoiseach Enda Kenny in office.
Mr Cullinane said Fine Gael had turned to the “architects of the crisis”, Fianna Fáil, to draft the Budget.
“Minister Noonan earlier delivered the Fianna Fáil budget. It is as much theirs as it is yours,” he added.
Sinn Féin Senator and spokesperson on North-South integration Niall Ó Donnghaile said the Budget gave no reassurances to people living in border regions, who fear the impact that Brexit will have on their communities.
“Communities along the Border deserve investment, stimulus and a government that will stand up for them at the national and European levels,” Mr Ó Donnghaile added.
THE Labour Party claimed that older people got less in the Budget than they did last year, despite the €5 increase in the old age pension.
The party’s social protection spokesman Willie Penrose said pensioners were “sold a pup” in the Budget.
He said when increases in allowances are taken into account older people received €336.10 in last year’s Budget but will only be up €245.60 in 2017.
“Last year, Fianna Fáil called the increase that Labour provided to pensioners an insult. But we secured more for pensioners last year then they did this year,” Mr Penrose said.
Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy said the Government’s “right-wing Budget” reinforced the injustices in society.
The Social Democrats said budget measures on housing were “retrograde” and risked causing another property bubble. The party was also critical of the lack of spending aimed at tackling issues in the health service.
Social Democrat TD Róisín Shortall said: “There was an opportunity here for the Government to display leadership and vision but instead they tried to provide a crumb to as many sections as possible to the long-term detriment of all.”
Independents 4 Change TD Tommie Broughan said the prescription charge should have been abolished and the Christmas bonus restored.