Tuesday 22 October 2019

Opposition parties' budget demands to be scrutinised after calls from Fianna Fáil equate to €24m a day

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Damien Eagers
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. Photo: Damien Eagers

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

The budgetary demands of opposition parties will be scrutinised in the future after requests from Fianna Fáil equate to €24m a day for the first six months of 2020.

The spending demands will be scrutinised by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) ahead of every budget to come, under a Private Members Bill submitted by Fine Gael.

Deputy Heydon, the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Chairman submitted the Private Members Bill which would see the legislative powers of IFAC expanded to allow them to examine opposition demands in the advance of each budget.

Mr Heydon, who is a member of the Oireachtas Budgetary Oversight Committee, said that his decision came after conversation with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and the Chairman of IFAC, Seamus Coffey who suggested that the new examination is something that should be considered in Ireland.

"Having independent, expert analysis of opposition spending calls and financial policies is important for the public to be well informed," Mr Heydon said.

"This is the case now more than ever in the face of Fianna Fáil’s constant stream of spending demands which they pluck from thin air in a bid to hide the fact that they have no plans and no solutions. They promise spending to all with no plan on how to do this or balance the country’s finances.

"My colleague, Deputy Peter Burke, compiled a report into spending calls from Fianna Fáil – which totalled a massive €4.35bn in the first six months of 2019.

"Despite the evidence that the party has called for €24m every day for the first half of the year, not a single representative has yet explained – two weeks on – how the taxpayer would fund their reckless spending pledges."

"Micheál Martin has been asked on two separate occasions but instead of answering the pertinent questions he has resorted to deflection saying it is juvenile and childish," he continued.

"Micheál and his TDs may think that making wild spending calls day in and day out is a trivial matter, but voters do not share that view. Fianna Fáil have made the lifetime of this Government contingent on Brexit and the public deserve to know what they have called for in the meantime and how they will pay for all this.

"This is a party who claim they want to govern and voters deserve to know exactly what that would look like. Does it look like broken promises or does it look like a lot like it did the last time Fianna Fáil were in power?"

In response, Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, Barry Cowen claimed that this Private Members Bill is an attempt by Fine Gael to ruse the public into forgetting their own budgetary overspends.

"This is another attempt by Fine Gael to try to get people to forget about the massive over spends on the national children’s hospital and the broadband plan will is coming in over six times its original cost," Deputy Cowen told Independent.ie.

"We have nothing to fear from a bill but we would remind Fine Gael that there is already an independent budget office put in place to cost all plans requested from opposition parties and we utilize this on a constant basis.

"We were the only Party that got our manifesto independently coated in 2016 - unlike Fine Gael. We plan to cost all of our plans in the 2020 manifesto and we would request that Fine Gael and other parties do the same.

"Fine Gael is the same party that suggested that they were going to eliminate the USC at a cost of €4bn before the last election. More on their line to control the costs that they are in charge of at the moment in government."

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