Monday 21 October 2019

Junior minister Halligan considers quitting Alliance as row with McGrath turns 'nasty'

John Halligan was upset with Finian McGrath’s interview. Picture: Steve Humphreys
John Halligan was upset with Finian McGrath’s interview. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Minister of State John Halligan is considering quitting the Independent Alliance after a falling out with Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath.

Mr Halligan was furious with his colleague for speaking to RTÉ Radio on Monday morning about the progress being made in Budget talks with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

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A source close to Mr Halligan said he was now considering ending his involvement with the group.

The junior minister believes Mr McGrath went over his and colleagues' heads by speaking to RTÉ before the Independent Alliance did a joint pre-Budget press conference on Monday afternoon.

"There's f***ing war over it," said an Independent Alliance source, who described the situation as "nasty". "Halligan is particularly annoyed there wasn't any honour shown."

Other Alliance ministers Shane Ross and Kevin 'Boxer' Moran were also said to be annoyed that Mr McGrath claimed credit for the increase in the thresholds for over-70s to access medical cards.

"He [McGrath] was told not to be specific and Ross is annoyed about that," said another Alliance source. But Mr Moran insisted: "If there is a row I know nothing about it."

Mr McGrath acknowledged his colleagues were annoyed with him. However he argued that, if he did not move to publicly set out the Alliance's position on Budget matters, Fine Gael would have claimed credit for them.

"I am not falling out with anybody," he insisted.

He also hit out at Fine Gael TDs who said Alliance ministers were claiming credit for measures they had nothing to do with. "There wouldn't have been stability for the last four years only for the Independent Alliance...they should cop onto themselves," he said.

The increase in the number of over-70s qualifying for medical cards was among a number of Budget wins for the Alliance, with an increase in the inheritance tax-free threshold from €320,000 to €335,000 following strong lobbying by Mr Ross.

Mr Moran secured a €31m package of measures targeted at the midlands.

Mr Halligan is claiming credit for securing extra funding for the school transport scheme and a tax break for small bookies.

But the Alliance failed to secure new levies on the insurance industry and so-called cuckoo funds.

Irish Independent

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