Tuesday 25 July 2017

LISTEN: The awkward moment Leo Varadkar said Micheál Martin will announce Budget 2017

'The Budget will be announced next Tuesday by Paschal Donohoe and Micheál Martin…or..uhhh… Anyway, almost…'

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Who is really deciding on what’s in the Budget has been the question on the lips of most political correspondents in recent weeks – but none expected the response Leo Varadkar gave today.

The Social Protection Minister is coming under pressure from Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea to give older people an extra €5 in the pension.

Independent.ie has previously reported how Mr Varadkar has reservations about using up €150m from his allocation to spend on pensioners alone.

He wants to ‘big ticket item’ in the Budget to revolve around giving extra social welfare benefits to the self-employed.

However, it seems clear that the €5 pension increase will have to happen in order to maintain political peace between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, whose backing they need in order to get the Budget through the Dáil.

Asked this afternoon if it is himself or Mr O’Dea who writing the Social Protection budget, Mr Varadkar responded: The Budget will be announced next Tuesday by Paschal Donohoe and Micheál Martin…or..uhhh… Anyway, almost…”

The answer drew a chorus of laugher from the media present, before the minister composed himself to clarify: “The Budget will be announced next Tuesday by Paschal Donohoe and Michael Noonan.”

It comes just days after Mr Martin attempted to impersonate Mr Noonan in the Dáil – drawing a bemused looking response from Mr Varadkar.

The Opposition leader was questioning the Taoiseach about the review of cardiac services at Waterford hospital and the promises junior minister John Halligan got in relation to the potential provision of a second cath lab.

An  independent review has recommended against this and sparked a furious row between Mr Halligan and Fine Gael minsters Simon Harris, Simon Coveney and Michael Noonan.

In the Dáil, Mr Martin asked the Taoiseach whether a verbal agreement had been made outside of what was recorded in the Programme for Government.

“I can almost hear him [Michael Noonan] gently saying to John Halligan, you know, ‘sure don’t worry about it John, t’is an old formality, it’ll be looked after’,” Mr Martin said in a bizarre attempt at mimicking the Finance Minister.

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