TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has ruled out a u-turn on the cuts to tax relief for private health insurance by saying it had become the second most costly relief.
He was challenged in the Dail by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, who said the reduction in tax relief was threatening the system of private health insurance.
However, Mr Kenny said that tax relief on private health insurance was the second most costly of its kind for the State, with the bill increasing from €448m last year to €500m this year.
He insisted that the Government’ s aim was to reduce tax relief on more expensive private health insurance policies, so that those with the costliest policies were not subsidised more than those with cheaper policies. And he said there were over 200 health policies for people to choose from.
“Fairness is involved here. There is a clear decision of Government not to increase income taxes so people can make these judgments themselves,” he said.
However, Mr Martin said that Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s Budget statement that the changes would only affect “gold-plated” medical insurance policies was “false and misleading”, given that the Revenue had said 50pc of policy owners would be affected.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams repeated his call for Mr Kenny and his Government to resign and to hold an immediate general election. He also complained that the Government was only allowing a ‘a pathetic[ nine hours for debate on the bill to implement the social welfare cuts in the Budget.
Mr Kenny responded in Irish, saying that he had thought about Mr Adams’ call to resign overnight but had the same answer for him. He said the Government was not going to run away from its responsibility to fix the economy and that the general election would be held in 2016.