'We can't magic up houses immediately' - Howlin and Noonan respond to live calls from public on Budget 2016
Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin faced criticism from public this morning following the announcement of Budget 2016.
The ministers, who unveiled the details of the Budget yesterday afternoon, answered queries via calls to RTE Radio 1's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke'.
Before taking the live calls, Minister Noonan denied claims that the Budget was expansionary, saying, "I'd be pulling back if there was a danger of overheating... we need not fear overheating."
Mother-of-one Erica was the first to question the pair on the widespread social issue of homelessness in Ireland.
Currently homeless and staying in a hotel with her nine-year-old daughter, Erica said that she has considered modular housing as an "emergency solution".
However, she said that she has been denied access to local vacant properties, despite repeated attempts to email and write to Government officials.
"I've written and I've emailed and asked them to "please just pull the boards down". I've even written directly to Minister Alan Kelly... But I've been told that I haven't been homeless long enough. How long is long enough?
"My daughter is extremely embarrassed. She's at an age when she doesn't want anybody knowing."
Minister Howlin told Erica, who has been homeless since June this year, that the Government "can't magic up houses immediately".
He also responded to a query as regards the additional €3 given to pensioners - and the Christmas bonus - while their larger prescription charges remain the same.
"The prescription charges are capped at €25 a month for all medicine," he said on the radio show.
"We will reduce that cap as things improve."
Caller Elizabeth described herself a self-employed single woman with no single or dependents. She has availed of the "brilliant" back-to-work enterprise program but questioned as to why dole payments as part of the program would not be restored to three to four years.
Mother-of-two Susan welcomed the changes to childcare in yesterday's announcement but queried changes to inheritance tax, asking if the Government considered anyone else besides children as beneficiaries.
Minister Noonan congratulated Elizabeth on establishing her business - "that's what the program is for" - but said to both callers that he did not have the resources to do everything that he wanted to do in the Budget.
"I see [these changes] as a start of a process. Yesterday was the first step," he said.
Una Monaghan was another caller to the show who closely watched Budget 2016 yesterday.
While she largely agreed with the "small but modest increases" across the board, she said she "questioned the wisdom" of free GP care for under 12s "without some sort of means testing".
Minister Howlin denied that the move was an oversight or because older children don't attend the GP as often but that the free GP care had been in the program for Governement for the last four years.