Saturday 21 October 2017

FG warns of 'dreadful time' as tax war rages

Noonan outlines heavy cost of recovery in row with Labour

Fionnan Sheahan, Thomas Molloy and Katherine Donnelly

FINE Gael -- certain to lead the next government -- yesterday admitted the average family will be hit by an extra €570 a year in taxes when it gets into power.

But Enda Kenny's party also claimed Labour would cost the same family at least €1,000 a year in tax hikes over the next three years if its economic policies were pursued.

The bitter war of words between the potential coalition partners escalated with just a week to go before polling day.

The tit-for-tat intensified as the campaign enters its crucial final weekend, when many voters make up their mind.

Fine Gael is still on course to win an overall majority, which would leave Labour on the opposition benches.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore went on the attack first yesterday, accusing Fine Gael of being a "stealth-tax party".

Fine Gael responded by again labelling Labour as a high-tax party.

But in a stark warning about the challenges facing the country, Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan admitted that regardless of who was in government: "It's going to be dreadful."

Mr Noonan said that by the end of 2014, every household in the country would be paying €1,700 extra in taxes under his party's plans.

Launching a withering attack on Labour, he said if Eamon Gilmore's taxation policies were followed, every household would pay €3,060 a year.

And the cost per household would rise to €3,200 if Labour succeeded in deferring the reduction of the deficit by an extra year, Mr Noonan said.

"Labour is a high-tax party," he said.

"That is the core of the choice the public face in deciding who will best handle our economy in the years to come."

Mr Noonan hit out at Labour after the party ran Tesco-style national newspaper adverts mocking Fine Gael's economic policies, with the slogan 'Fine Gael -- Every Little Hurts'.

Derisory

He added: "To be taking ads in the national papers, deploring the fact that the big bad wolves in Fine Gael are going to put an extra euro on a bottle of wine and destroy your standard of living seems to me to be derisory.

"I can't understand how the Labour Party have got themselves into a position where they are criticising Fine Gael for putting a euro on a bottle of wine," he added.

Labour's social welfare spokeswoman Roisin Shortall said Fine Gael's claims were "entirely false and baseless".

She claimed Fine Gael's stealth taxes and cuts would hit the average family by another €1,080 -- on top of the figures the party was already admitting.

"The indisputable fact is that Fine Gael has tried to hide the truth from the public. They have been forced to admit that the additional charges Labour identified in our recent advertisements are accurate," she said.

Ms Shortall and her party leader Mr Gilmore both resorted to comparing Fine Gael to the Tory Party.

Mr Gilmore said Fine Gael plans to slash child benefit by €252, which would badly hit families which were already struggling to survive.

"What Fine Gael is offering is largely the same type of measures the Conservative Party proposed in Britain, which has now resulted in Britain going back into recession again," Mr Gilmore said.

Labour's director of elections, Ruairi Quinn, said the opinion polls showed people were deserting Fianna Fail for Fine Gael.

"They are fleeing from a failed centre-right party to one that isn't telling them the truth," he said.

Irish Independent

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