Tuesday 16 January 2018

Rank and file of the Coalition happy -- so far

Michael Brennan and Fiach Kelly

FINE Gael and Labour backbenchers showed no signs last night of voting against the Budget as they declared themselves satisfied with the first "half of the jigsaw".

There was a general relief that an across the board cut in child benefit had been avoided and that other proposals -- such as a €50 hike in medical card charges -- failed to materialise.

Labour Dublin Mid West TD Joanna Tuffy said there were some "good things" in the Budget such as the reduction in state funding for employer redundancy payments. She said she was not happy with the €250 hike in college registration fees -- but believed it might be possible to reverse over the lifetime of the Government.

New Labour Dublin West TD Patrick Nulty, who threatened to vote against any Budget with child benefit cuts, could not be contacted for comment.

He and other backbenchers will only be put to the test tonight when the first vote is held.

But Labour Dublin Central TD Joe Costello praised the fact that the party's commitment to protect basic social welfare rates had been kept.

"While the budget is tough, it is also fair and protects the most vulnerable people in our society," he said.

Fine Gael Wicklow TD Simon Harris said yesterday's announcement was "as good as it gets in terms of fairness".

"Obviously no one is jumping for joy, but it is politically proofed well and they have listened to a lot of concerns that were articulated on areas like child benefit and the half-rate carer's allowance, which I was particularly concerned about," Mr Harris said.

He also said he hoped Mr Noonan would announce measures to help those in mortgage difficulties, but said there was "some concern" in Fine Gael over the reduction in redundancy rebate for employers.

"From a Fine Gael perspective, it is only one half of the jigsaw, and Michael Noonan will show us what can be done to help small business in particular," he said.

Fine Gael Meath East TD Regina Doherty said there were some painful measures, but that she wouldn't be going against the Government.

But Ms Doherty said she was concerned about the cuts to disability payments for those aged between 16 and 24.

"That extra money would have them to have that extra quality of life," she said.

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