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Labour claims credit for Taoiseach Kenny's promises


Enda Kenny and Joan Burton

Enda Kenny and Joan Burton

Enda Kenny and Joan Burton

The Labour Party is bizarrely claiming the credit for Taoiseach Enda Kenny signalling a rise in the minimum wage and promising USC cuts for the low paid.

Writing exclusively in the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Kenny pledged to secure the fragile recovery with a series of new economic measures aimed at "making work pay".

The Taoiseach outlined plans to cut the USC for low-paid workers, promising to take another 90,000 people out of the tax net, and indicated the current minimum wage rate of €8.65 will rise.

Mr Kenny says he wants to "make sure work pays better than welfare, and that the recovery is felt by those at work" and promised to help businesses create an extra 40,000 jobs this year.

"More jobs mean a lower tax burden on those already at work," he said.

Notably, the commitments to the low paid were made by the Taoiseach, rather than the Tanaiste who made her own pitch to the voters yesterday.

Unlike Mr Kenny, Ms Burton did not set out any policy initiatives.

But Labour Party sources claimed Mr Kenny's pledges showed Fine Gael had "bought big time into our agenda on USC and low pay".

"The minimum wage increase is a clear victory for us," a senior source said.

Fine Gael sources dismissed the Labour claims as "pathetic".

Labour Senator John Whelan also weighed in saying he was glad to see the Taoiseach "coming around to my way of thinking on the USC".

Following a disastrous 2014 and with the Coalition's support waning, the Taoiseach is trying to shift the political debate back onto the economy ahead of the general election in the next 15 months.

Mr Kenny also said the Government will draw up plans for small businesses to be compensated for an expected rise in the minimum wage later this year.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has played down the impact of former junior minister Lucinda Creighton's new party.

"Until she shows her hand on policies, it's impossible to predict," he said.

"She hasn't been very clear on what she's doing," he added.

But Mr Noonan warned voters against supporting parties and groups who would jeopardise the economic recovery.

"If you have political instability, economic instability follows," he said.

Independent TD Finian McGrath has attacked what he described as "the cosy consensus politics" that exists among the major political parties.

"There is also a strong element of political snobbery as the momentum for change and reform is growing among the public. People are looking for new ideas and new solutions to the major political issues. There are many reasons why people are turning to Independents," he said.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald ruled out going into power with Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

She said she wanted Sinn Fein to lead an "alternative government" made up of left-wing politicians.

Yet she admitted she does not know how such a coalition could be formed.

Irish Independent