Thursday 22 March 2018

Labour upset at Quinn being 'hung out to dry' over cuts

Ruairi Quinn: no leeway
Ruairi Quinn: no leeway

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE Labour leadership is increasingly angry at Education Minister Ruairi Quinn being "hung out to dry" by Fine Gael, as preparations intensify for the October 15 Budget.

The junior coalition partner is resentful of what it sees as Fine Gael pressuring its ministers into spending cuts.

Labour sources said this is at odds with some Fine Gael members of Cabinet – in particular Health Minister James Reilly – missing their own budget targets.

There is a now a perception in Labour that Mr Quinn is getting no budget leeway, unlike Dr Reilly, who is a close ally of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The Labour sources said Mr Quinn had been "hung out to dry" by Fine Gael on some issues and should be cut some slack.

They said there is bitterness that Mr Quinn was expected to perform a number of u-turns on last year's measures – such as the cuts to special needs teachers – after pressure from Mr Kenny and Fine Gael.

He was expected to find the extra money for the move from existing resources but is now coming under growing pressure to implement another €100m in cuts in next month's Budget.

Others feel Fine Gael is targeting Mr Quinn and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton for particular pressure in order to provide political cover for Dr Reilly if he has to be given a bailout for missing his budget targets.

"Every year we hear he's making cuts but every year he gets bailed out," a Labour source said of Dr Reilly. "The assumption is Reilly will be able to make his cuts but it doesn't happen."

However, it was noted that Mr Quinn had to reverse the special needs cuts from his own Budget.

"That had to be addressed, and it costs €27m in a full year," a senior source said, acknowledging there was "discussion" at the highest levels of Fine Gael over the June u-turn.


"There is a feeling that he was hung out to dry by Fine Gael a few times. The resource teachers was one. We feel the SNA (special needs assistants) thing wasn't handled as well as it could have been."

At the time, Fine Gael let it be known that Mr Kenny was concerned about the cuts.

It has now led to friction because Mr Quinn was expected to reverse the decision yet is not being afforded any breathing space now.

The Coalition is still negotiating over the exact amount of cuts and taxes for the Budget. Labour is adamant it will not be the planned €3.1bn, and is pushing for it to be brought down to €2.5bn or less.

Senior Fine Gael figures said the Government will hit the budget target of bringing the deficit down to 5.1pc, although this can be done with an adjustment of less than €3.1bn. But they maintain the exact adjustment cannot be determined until later this month.

However, Fine Gael wants any extra money, such as from the promissory note deal, to be used to create jobs by investing in infrastructure instead of easing off cuts to areas like social welfare.

Irish Independent

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