'Time to start spending again,' Howlin declares
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has declared it is time for the Government to open the purse strings and "start spending again".
As the Coalition prepares to unveil the State's first Spring Statement, Mr Howlin outlined plans to pump more money into health, education, childcare and the gardaí in a move in advance of the General Election.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Howlin insisted any spending would be prudent, but said after years of austerity people were now asking: "What am I going to get back?"
However, in a move that is likely to spark public anger, Mr Howlin confirmed politicians would also benefit from pay hikes as he begins the process of reversing public sector pay cuts imposed during the recession.
"Ministers, politicians or anybody else - I've always said that we are not going to segregate out people," he said.
He is preparing to unwind emergency legislation that forced pay and pension cuts on 290,000 public servants.
He insisted lower-income earners will be the first to benefit. His comments come on the eve of the Spring Statement in which the Government will predict GDP will grow by 4pc this year and result in 2.1 million people working by 2018 - the highest level of employment in the State's history.
The Coalition will also use the statement to outline plans to attract emigrants back to Ireland and pledge tax cuts for the squeezed middle.
However, the Government will warn that reversing public-sector reforms and slashing taxes will put thousands of jobs at risk.