Tuesday 20 February 2018

Late start to meeting but they grabbed pizza the action

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

PIZZA was the most uncontentious item on the table at last weekend's crunch Cabinet Budget meeting.

Ministers were sitting around for several hours waiting for the meeting to start on Saturday evening.

When all the tea and biscuits were gone, and with no start to the meeting in sight, Leo Varadkar called for some sustenance.

The Tourism Minister dialled a nearby Italian restaurant that does takeaway pizza and ordered a few different types to be dropped over.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney paid the bill out of his own pocket and won't be claiming the tab on expenses.

The delay was caused by the side meetings involving senior ministers trying to sort out the fractious tax, health and social welfare elements of the Budget.

These bilateral meetings were taking place in the Taoiseach's office and variously involved Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin, along with Health Minister Dr James Reilly and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton.

Back in the Cabinet Room, their remaining ministerial colleagues were waiting around.

The source of tension between the parties was the USC cut sought by Labour and the corresponding welfare cut demanded by Fine Gael.

But this never actually formally made it to Cabinet as it was sorted out elsewhere.

Mr Noonan also berated his colleagues this week over the leaking of the property tax in Budget 2013 to the Irish Independent.

Arriving at Thursday morning's Cabinet meeting, he declared there was no point talking any more as whatever he said just ended up in the newspapers.

But ministers say Mr Noonan and Mr Howlin working together have managed to slice the cuts to the health and social welfare budgets by €300m.

It's not clear if a pizza tax will be announced tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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