Labour keeping budget cuts quiet until after polling day
THE Labour Party is avoiding a presidential election backlash against Michael D Higgins by keeping details of potential budget cuts under wraps until after polling day.
The IMF-EU bailout team is currently being briefed on proposed cuts to be inflicted next year.
But Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin's much vaunted examination of all government spending won't be revealed to the public until well after the election. The Cabinet will decide today on when a number of key budgetary and economic reports will be published.
Fianna Fail last night accused the coalition of deliberately holding off on publishing the options for budget cuts until after polling day.
But the Department of Public Expenditure denied there was any such intention.
The move comes as candidates yesterday attempted to bring economic issues into the presidential campaign.
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness said Mr Higgins represented a party that was imposing cuts on the people of Ireland.
Independent David Norris criticised the lack of support from the Government for homeowners struggling with mortgage debt.
Labour ministers are also continuing to play down suggestions there is more pain than expected coming in the Budget.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan's assertion that more than €3.6bn in cuts and taxes will probably be needed has been repeatedly contradicted by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte. Mr Howlin's Comprehensive Review of Expenditure is "substantially com- pleted", according to a Government spokesman.
Mr Howlin admits the "final Comprehensive Review of Expenditure has now been received from all Departments".
The minister's department said the review was being discussed with the Troika bailout team "in the context of the wider budgetary targets".
Yet there is still some question mark over when exactly the review will be published.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined yesterday to give a time for the publication of the review, merely saying it would be before the Budget.
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the Government was deliberately pushing the publication of material back until after the presidential election.
"It is well established internationally that such a process is enhanced by having the options out well in advance of a budget to allow for a public debate.
"But the Government seem determined to keep those options out of public view, until well after the election," he said.