Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fianna Fáil seek to veto €10 carbon tax increase in budget talks

Pictured was Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin (centre)with local Wexford Cllr. Malcolm Byrne and James Browne T.D ahead of the Parliamentary Party think-in in the Ashdown Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
Pictured was Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin (centre)with local Wexford Cllr. Malcolm Byrne and James Browne T.D ahead of the Parliamentary Party think-in in the Ashdown Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford. Picture Conor McCabe Photography.
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

FIANNA Fáil will seek to veto a €10 increase in the carbon tax in Budget talks with the government in the coming weeks, party leader Micheál Martin has signalled.

As preliminary talks between Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath and Barry Cowen and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe get underway later today, Mr Martin said that any increase in the €20 per tonne carbon tax would have to be legally ring-fenced to ensure it goes towards measures that tackle climate change.

While the government is being advised to increase this by €10 from next year, Mr Martin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland: "It may not be €10 it could be less than the €10 it could be the €5 or the €6.”

At the conclusion of his party’s Wexford think-in, Mr. Martin warned against an immediate sharp increase in the carbon tax.

“One of the issues across the globe, actually in the US in particular - they’ve done a lot of research on this - is that if you go at it too heavy in the early years you can actually jeopardise the whole political acceptability of it and very often many of these initiatives have often hasn’t moved beyond announcement phase,” he said.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil has introduced the tax when it was in government with the Green Party and it now wants “a sustainable progressive increase on that over the next number of years.”

Read more here: FF slams 'colossal overspends' but rules out pre-Christmas poll

While saying he would not get into specifics, the Cork South-Central TD said it was important that whatever measures are introduced in the Budget next month they must reflect the trajectory laid out in the Oireachtas Climate Action Committee report published earlier this year.

That committee’s report recommended that the existing carbon tax of €20 per tonne be increased to €80 by 2030 with the increased revenue being ring-fenced separately from general Exchequer funds by legislation. Mr Martin said he supported this approach.

He said: “There is precedent for that so that the public can see that the money that’s raised through it will go back into initiatives that help us tackle climate change and improve and enhance our biodiversity as well as mitigating for fuel poverty.”

Mr Martin also escalated his war of words with Health Minister Simon Harris, accusing the Fine Gael TD of having not brought about effective interventions in the health service when compared to his own record on cardiovascular and cancer care as well as the smoking ban when Fianna Fáil were in government.

“Those were effective interventions in health. I can’t point to similar interventions from Simon Harris or indeed from Leo Varadkar when he was Minister for Health,” the party leader said.

Earlier, Mr Harris said it was “galling” to hear Mr Martin describe HSE budgets in recent years as “fraudulent”.

Mr Harris said Mr Martin had failed to stop illegal nursing home charges when he was health minister and took thousands of medical cards from people over 70. But Mr Martin hit back in Wexford, describing some of the minister’s claims as “incredible” and “so untrue”.

He added: “I don’t think he is an effective minister and I think he has been a very poor minister on a number of fronts. I think one of the worst decisions was to offer a free test to every woman at the height of the cervical screening controversy, that has caused consistent damage to that programme, has put it under enormous strain and he didn’t tell the full story about it.”


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