Thursday 19 September 2019

Dáil in chaos as Varadkar and Martin argue 'like children' in carbon tax increase 'racket'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Damien Eagers / INM
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Picture: Damien Eagers / INM

Kevin Doyle and John Downing

THE Dáil was on the verge of being adjourned this afternoon as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin sparred over carbon tax increases.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl threatened to halt proceedings over the "racket" while People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett described the two men as "children".

As ordered was restored Mr Martin was seen to approach the Ceann Comhairle for a private word before walking out of the chamber.

He complained that Mr Varadkar was allowed to breach standing orders to accuse him of misleading the Dáil.

It followed a debate on whether the Taoiseach had announced in August that he would include an increase to carbon tax in Budget 2019.

Earlier, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar publicly conceded that householders will have to pay more in carbon taxes over the coming years in efforts to meet international global warming targets.

But Mr Varadkar has insisted the Government "has no intention" of levying families with an extra €3,000 per year to cover the cost of failures to meet Ireland’s legal obligations to cut carbon tax in the battle against global warming.

The Taoiseach’s comments came during sharp exchanges with Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who pointed to the Taoiseach’s pledge last Saturday to gradually give the average worker an extra €60 per week over the next five years via income tax cuts.

He pointed to a report today from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) on Ireland’s poor performance on meeting internationally agreed lethal targets.

During a heated debate Green Party leader, Eamon Ryan, challenged all the party leaders and TDs to state what they will do to pick up the pace on tackling global warming. 

He addressed all the key party leaders by name in making this challenge.

The Taoiseach said the international carbon emissions targets would inevitably mean dearer coal, gas and electricity. He conceded that conservation measures could not really offset these increases over the first three years – but he agreed that all parties should agree a common approach.

"I’m up for that," Mr Varadkar told the Green Party leader.

The Taoiseach agreed Ireland will not meet its 2020 carbon reduction targets and would struggle to meet tougher targets committed to for 2030.

"Let me now join with Eamon Ryan and ask the leader of Fianna Fáil: will they sign up to targets for 2030," Mr Varadkar added to general consternation.

Mr Martin had challenged Mr Varadkar to outline his plans for a carbon levy over the coming five years in the same way as he had pledged the income tax cuts over five years. "When you cut taxes – other taxes go up," the Fianna Fáil leader said.

The Taoiseach said the Government was committed to tackling carbon emissions and playing its part in dealing with global warming. He conceded that this would mean an increase in various carbon taxes.

"But the ESRI are way off the mark," Mr Varadkar adding that his Government, or any other led by Fine Gael, had "no intention" of raising carbon taxes to the extent cited in today’s report.

The Taoiseach defended the income tax cuts promised at his party’s Árd Fheis last weekend.

"I believe you’re allowing people to hold on to more of the money they earned in the first place," Mr Varadkar argued.

He rejected claims by Mr Martin that next year’s modest income tax changes would be funded by the increase of VAT from 9pc to 13.5pc for hotels and catering. 

The Taoiseach also said the Government would outline its carbon tax plans in the future, along lines he had outlined his income tax proposals, and he challenged Fianna Fáil to do the same thing.

Working off his iPhone, Mr Varadkar quoted himself as saying that the Government plan was to increase "the carbon tax over the next couple of years".

He said this didn’t necessarily mean next year and accused Fianna Fáil of making "false claims".

Clearly frustrated, Mr Martin shouted: "You’re not honest."

The Ceann Comhairle was forced to repeatedly intervene and threated to suspend the Dáil before order was restored.

Online Editors

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