'Spring Statement' to be unveiled on April 21
FINANCE Minister Noonan has fired one of the opening shots of the General Election, announcing the Coalition's plans to reveal its 'Spring Statement' on April 21.
The statement will outline plans to further fuel the economic recovery and is expected to detail measures that will apply over a five-year period.
While the statement will not contain a tax reform plan, Fine Gael sources say it will present a "clear picture" of the Government's intentions if it is re-elected.
The Spring Statement will be unveiled on April 21 and be followed by a number of days of debate in the Dail.
Fianna Fáil, the lead opposition party, is set to detail its own response on the economy at the party's Ard Fheis just days later.
Meanwhile, Mr Noonan says he is open to the idea of introducing measures in the upcoming Budget to assist first-time buyers.
Fine Gael TD for Meath West Ray Butler called for the introduction of a capped scheme whereby first-time buyers would have a proportion of their deposit met by the State if they were able to save a particular amount.
Mr Noonan said he was interested in the proposal and asked Mr Butler to make a submission which he would consider in the context of the Budget.
Mr Noonan reiterated his pledge to address the prospect of spiralling property tax bills after concern was raised at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.
Responding to queries by Fine Gael TD for Dublin North Alan Farrell, Mr Noonan said he is conscious that measures must be taken in the short term.
He said an independent review will be published in May and that he will take 'affirmative action' after that.
Sources say Mr Noonan is open to a number of options, including a freeze on valuation rates and handing more autonomy to local authorities.
Also at the meeting, there were strong objections from several TDs about the leaking of assessment reports on their performance in their constituency at grassroots and on local media.
TDs, including Marcella Corcoran Kennedy of Laois-Offaly, Paul Connaughton of Galway East, Derek Keating of Dublin Mid-West and senator Hildegarde Naughton, insisted that publication of such sensitive details as a general election approaches was extremely unhelpful. There were calls to change the system in future to ensure greater confidentiality.
One deputy said the reports was done by local volunteers who gave frank and sometimes harsh assessments of their local deputy.
"The people who gave their opinions never expected their own deputy to see these. It has put a serious strain on relationships locally," the Fine Gael TD told the Irish Independent.