'TDs giving themselves a pay-rise is very insensitive' - Ministers forced to answer the tough questions on Budget 2017
Ministers Noonan and Donohoe took questions from callers on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show
Ministers came under fire from the public as they answered callers’ questions about Budget 2017, and in particular TD’s salaries.
Michael Noonan, Minister for Finance and Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure took questions from callers on RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke show.
Mary from Galway highlighted that people are angry that TDs are giving themselves pay increases against the backdrop of discussions on the pension increase and the budget in general.
“TDs giving themselves a pay-rise is very insensitive,” she said.
Donohoe was quick to respond that the pay restoration was in line with the Lansdowne Road Agreement.
“What we have now is the Lansdowne Road Agreement with a partial wage restoration and the payment and salary of a TD is tied in with this. The change of wage for a TD is happening at the same time as it is for anyone else in the civil and public service.”
While the Budget provides an extra €5 for social welfare payment across the board, TDs' increase is ten times that at €52 a month.
It was announced earlier this week that TDs were to get pay boost of €5,000 while OAPs wait for an extra fiver.
As a result, they are due €2,707 next year and the same amount the following year.
That’s an increase of €52 a week - while social welfare recipients and pensioners get €5 a week.
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Donohoe was quick to say that there was a plan in place for “equal pay restoration” but he wasn’t getting into the finer details “right now”.
The Ministers also came under fire for their housing plan and in particular the first-time buyer’s allowance.
A caller asked the Ministers why the plan didn’t apply to previously built homes.
“If it applied to second hand homes it wouldn’t increase supply. It would increase the cost of them and there won’t be any houses in supply. We're encouraging new builds,” said Minister Noonan.
Mr Noonan said the Housing Minister Simon Coveney had a “multitude of plans” which will also extend into the rental market.
The Minister for Finance has defended the scheme for first time buyers saying it is “not a catch-all proposal” and is only criticised by those “who have no solutions themselves.”
On the childcare scheme changes, he said it would benefit many families, with childminders having the opportunity to participate in it but said they do need to be registered.
He denied stay at home parents were being discriminated against, saying families make very different choices about how they want to look after their children “but the government has to begin with the way things are at the moment” and for families who need some type of professional childcare, the cost of it has become a massive impediment to going back to work or study.
The public proved that they were the ones with the tough questions as they grilled the Ministers on the carers’ allowance.
Mr Donohoe said that the delay in increasing the carer’s allowance until March was due to the huge costs.
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“Payment is not available at the moment because the total cost of funding is not available now. The earliest time we can give it to everyone is March.”
Maureen from Dublin put the Ministers under pressure over limits on inheritance tax.
Minister Noonan explained that the Government is only now in a position to restore inheritance tax benefits following on from the crash. Changes to the tax in 2009 was just “money grab” according to Maureen.
“People should know, they don't know until death comes knocking at their door. It's robbing from graves,” said Maureen.
The last caller to ask the tough questions asked why there was nothing was being done for the blind.
“People who are blind have costs. We get taxis everywhere, we can't look out for bargain.”
Donohoe said he understands the additional costs.
“We didn't want an increase for one part of our society, and none for others. There is €5 for everybody,” he said.
Meanwhile Minister Noonan was asked on air about the future of the Fine Gael leadership, questioned why “the man beside him” wasn’t putting his name forward.
“There’s no vacancy yet and isn’t he wise not to apply for a job yet,” he pointed out.
Minister Donohoe echoed his words, saying there was no vacancy and that in any case, he has his “hands full” at the moment.