Monday 20 November 2017

Lack of ambition meant 'much ado about nothing', say TDs

Joan Burton
Joan Burton
Catherine Murphy
Michael McGrath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Opposition TDs have accused the Government of lacking ambition amid claims the Budget will bring about a return to "boom and bust" and families will benefit little more than the cost of a "cup of coffee".

While Fianna Fáil was quick to claim credit for items including USC cuts and €5-a-week social welfare increases, it also attacked the Government's record on housing and health.

Its finance spokesman Michael McGrath welcomed progress on Budget measures covered by his party's confidence and supply agreement with the Fine Gael-led minority Government.

But he also hit out at what he claimed was the Government's "abysmal failure" on housing and health, pointing to more than 8,000 people in emergency accommodation and around 678,000 people on hospital waiting lists. He called for no more "glossy brochures" and said there needs to be "more action".

Mr McGrath also took a swipe at Sinn Féin, who he predicted would launch an attack on Fianna Fáil for facilitating the Budget.

He accused the party of being the "classic hurler on the ditch" and said it "bottled it" when it had a chance to influence Government after the last election.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty attacked both the Government and Fianna Fáil for the tax cuts in the last two budgets.

He said there are "people dying in the streets" due to the homelessness problem and patients "languishing on hospital waiting lists".

"Yet, Fine Gael, its Independent friends and Fianna Fáil, have come in here today and told us now is the time to cut taxes and to return to the boom and bust politics of the past."

Labour's Joan Burton suggested that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe might have drawn inspiration from the Shakespeare play 'As You Like It' because it is "a nice romantic tale to please the punters" with "something, however small, for everyone in the audience". She said 'Much Ado About Nothing' would be a more appropriate title "for today's less-than-dramatic offering".

Party colleague Alan Kelly suggested families would see little financial benefit from the measures announced and branded €20m for extension of a preschool childcare programme as "paltry".

"Really, it's the cup of coffee Budget," he said.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy criticised the lack of an affordable housing scheme and said the Budget was "devastatingly unambitious".

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also argued that there was a lack of ambition, particularly in the "absence of any big climate change actions". He cited the absence of any rail-based public transport measures and a "measly" €3m for cycling infrastructure.

Irish Independent

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