Wednesday 22 November 2017

Kenny admits to delaying tactics over Budget pain

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday admitted the Government will deliberately put off any announcements about the pain to come in the Budget until after the presidential election.

But the Coalition denies it is avoiding a backlash against Labour Party and Fine Gael election candidates over proposed cutbacks.

The move comes as the rift between the coalition parties over the level of pain to be inflicted in the budget escalated last night.

The Labour Party yet again refused to back up Finance Minister Michael Noonan's view that the amount of cutbacks in next year's budget will be higher.

Fianna Fail has accused the Coalition of holding off on publishing the options for budget cuts until after polling day to avoid it having a negative impact on their candidates in the presidential election and the by-election.

But the Government denies it is afraid the bad news surrounding the Budget will harm Labour's Michael D Higgins and Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell or the party's by-election candidates.

"The scale of the challenge confronting the Government transcends any election," a spokesman said.

But the Government was due to indicate the size of the package of cuts and taxes by the end of this month.

The prospect of the cuts being bigger than the previous estimate of €3.6bn is continuing to generate divisions in the Government.

Both parties say the commitment under the bailout to reach the target of 8.6pc of economic output will definitely be achieved.

And Fine Gael and Labour say it is not possible to say how much will need to be cut before figures on economic growth and tax returns are known.

However, Mr Noonan says he believes the package will "probably" be more than €3.6bn -- a statement backed by a government spokesman. Labour minister Pat Rabbitte has repeatedly contradicted this assertion. Efforts to play this down as just the views of one minister were undermined last night.

A spokeswoman for the Labour Party in Government repeatedly refused to say the party agreed with Mr Noonan.

"I am saying it (the 8.6pc target) will be achieved," she said.

Mr Kenny said this announcement of the amount was now being held off until after the presidential election.

The Coalition says it wants to ensure there is as "clear an environment as possible to announce it to the public".

Irish Independent

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