Wednesday 16 October 2019

Fianna Fáil slates Fine Gael as it's forced to defend Budget support

‘Correct decision’: Micheál Martin said he was right to postpone an election due to Brexit uncertainty. Picture: Steve Humphreys
‘Correct decision’: Micheál Martin said he was right to postpone an election due to Brexit uncertainty. Picture: Steve Humphreys
John Downing

John Downing

The Brexit threat to Ireland fully justifies Fianna Fáil's support for next year's Budget, party leader Micheál Martin has insisted.

Mr Martin said the ongoing prospect of a no-deal outcome meant Ireland had to present a united front. He compared Sinn Féin's failure to help re-establish the North's power-sharing structures amid the Brexit crisis with the arch-Brexiteer Tories of the European Research Group.

"Our decision to postpone the holding of an election because of Brexit uncertainty was the correct one," the Fianna Fáil leader said during a Dáil debate on Budget 2020.

But Mr Martin also looked forward to the upcoming general election, expected in the first half of next year, by heavily criticising Fine Gael. He said the Government had overspent taxpayers' money on big projects, and limited scope for other social spending, while he also said Brexit preparations were far behind those of other EU states.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the central aim of Budget 2020 was to shield Irish citizens from the worst fallout of a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said the key Opposition parties, Sinn Féin, Labour and the Green Party, based their alternative budget proposals on the unrealistic assumption of an orderly Brexit outcome.

In another snipe at the Green Party, Mr Varadkar said it had only one mention of Brexit in its proposals.

The Taoiseach further argued the Budget increased investment in social and economic projects, increased environmental protection, and helped soften the burdens on the less well-off people.

The Taoiseach, who is due to meet UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today, said the no-deal Brexit Budget was about planning for a worst outcome. It did not mean Ireland believed there would be no deal.

He said the carbon tax increase was "modest but meaningful", and would raise an extra €6.5bn over the next decade and this would be ring-fenced for climate action. He added this was on top of the €22bn already allocated for climate action in Project 2040.

Mr Varadkar rounded on Sinn Féin and the far-left parties for opposing increases in carbon tax. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said carbon taxes hit people depending on welfare, workers on low incomes, and people living in more remote places.

The Taoiseach said Sinn Féin and the far-left parties were opportunistic and their commitment to tackling the fall-out of climate change was not real. "You and your party aren't serious about climate action and neither are the far-left parties," Mr Varadkar said.

The Taoiseach also strongly rejected calls by Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin for a supplementary Budget to increase welfare if a hard-Brexit happens. He rejected arguments by his former cabinet colleague that this Fine Gael-led Government had done nothing for poorer people - despite having far more resources than the 2011-2016 Fine Gael-Labour coalition.

Dublin Independent TD Joan Collins was forced to withdraw the word "f**k" after an angry Dáil contribution on the Budget.

Ms Collins heavily criticised both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for this week's Budget, which she insisted did nothing for people on low incomes, dependent on welfare, or left homeless. "Youse don't really give a f**k," she said.

Dáil Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher criticised Ms Collins's use of "unparliamentary language."

Ms Collins immediately agreed to withdraw the word, saying she had used it in anger.

Irish Independent

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