Noonan now considering €4bn package of tax and cuts
No soft options, TDs are told
FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan has said he is considering increasing the tax and cuts package in December's Budget to €4bn.
Mr Noonan said he may have to go above the €3.6bn figure to which the Government is already committed in order to reach targets agreed with the EU -- but that he could not be definite as yet.
"It's something I'm thinking about but I haven't made up my mind about it yet," he said yesterday.
The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has urged the Government to take the harshest measures first and said the 2012 adjustment should be closer to €4bn. Mr Noonan said yesterday it may inspire more confidence to make the larger cut.
The revelation came as Fine Gael's TDs and senators had to run the gauntlet of protesters on the first day of the parliamentary party's Galway 'think-in' -- and were warned that the Government faced a hard road to bring down the deficit.
Groups of protesters gave the politicians a taste of things to come by continually trying to disrupt proceedings as Mr Noonan gave one of a number of briefings on the economy and promised to outline a multi-year tax and spending plan next month.
Mr Noonan said he would detail a three-to-four-year tax and cut plan, so that people would know where they stood with their incomes -- and, crucially, if they could afford to spend money and so get the economy moving.
Echoing comments made by the ESRI's John Fitzgerald, who also gave a briefing at the Fine Gael event, Mr Noonan said there were many people in their 30s who had substantial savings but were holding back on buying houses.
The Finance Minister said the detail of a three-to-four-year document should allow people plan their spending and release some savings into the economy. The plan will be released some time in October, with greater detail provided in December's Budget.
Mr Noonan said it would outline measures to be taken between 2012 and 2015, when the Government hopes to have the deficit down to below 3pc, as dictated by the EU.
"We would hope that once we hit 2014, most of the pain will be endured," he said, adding that people should be going back to work at that stage.
"We would hope to clarify this in October and be more specific in the one-year Budget which will be introduced in early December," he said.
Mr Noonan also warned that there would be no "soft options" and said it was better that Fine Gael TDs and senators were aware of that.
There were a number of small protests around the think-in yesterday, with some TDs heckled when entering a reception held for the parliamentary party in city hall.
The protesters earlier tried to block the entrance to the hotel where the FG ranks were gathered. At the reception, around 20 linked arms and tried to enter city hall, but were held back by gardai.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell and senator Catherine Noone were among those heckled as they entered the reception, which was hosted by the Fine Gael mayor of the city, Hildegarde Naughton.
The group was made up of protesters from the United Left Alliance, Free Education for Everyone, a Roscommon hospital group, and one man who was from the Galway Alliance Against War.
"It wasn't very pleasant," Ms Mitchell said afterwards. "But we didn't really know what they wanted."