Thursday 18 January 2018

Revealed: Varadkar’s big ideas on transport and tax will cost €5bn

Martin says new infrastructure plan leaked to FG frontrunner by backers

Leo Varadkar: ‘benefiting from leaks’. Photo: Tom Burke
Leo Varadkar: ‘benefiting from leaks’. Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Leo Varadkar's initial plans to cut taxes and improve the country's transport network will cost €5bn, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The Social Protection Minister has set out a series of "big projects" which he would prioritise as taoiseach, including a metro for Dublin and a motorway to the north-west.

He also wants to reduce the marginal tax rate on workers earning over €70,000 from 52pc, down to 50pc. This move alone will cost €300m in a full year.

The figures were revealed as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin suggested that Mr Varadkar was being fed information from colleagues who sit on the Cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure.

It is currently reviewing the Government's capital investment programme, but Mr Martin said his understanding is that a new "much-heralded infrastructure plan" is ready to publish.

"What I think is surprising, Taoiseach, is that you provided the House with the membership of that committee earlier this year and the Minister for Social Protection was not on the list.

"So this suggests that one of his colleagues, or choir boys as Deputy Kate O'Connell would label them, has been helping him and has supplied him with the specifics so that he can put them in his election promises," Mr Martin told the Dáil.

The committee's membership includes Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Arts Minister Heather Humphreys - all of whom are backing Mr Varadkar to be the next Fine Gael leader.

Read more - Revealed: Leo Varadkar's big ideas if he wins Fine Gael leadership and becomes Taoiseach

His rival in the contest, Housing Minister Simon Coveney, is also on the committee.

Among the capital projects costed by Mr Varadkar is the long-postponed Dublin Metro (€2.5bn) and the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway (€850m-€1bn).

He has also committed to spending €400-€450m on improving motorway access to the west and north-west.

Funding for southern links to the A5 motorway in Northern Ireland is set at €200m and, according to the minister's costing, the Government will give a further €465m to help upgrade the A5.

A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar refuted Mr Martin's allegation that he was covertly supplied with details of the upcoming capital spending plan, saying he was previously transport minister and "has detailed knowledge of the priorities for infrastructure".

The €5bn figure for Mr Varadkar's tax and transport plans is on top of his proposals to double funding for arts and sport over the next seven years.

At the launch of his policy ideas earlier this week, Mr Varadkar also said he believes water charge refunds should be paid by the end of the year.

However, Fianna Fáil has cast doubt over this timeline, questioning where the money would come from to issue the instant pay-outs.

Fianna Fáil's public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary said: "In terms of the 2017 fiscal envelope, it's not in it. It's something that would need to be budgeted over 2018/2019."

He added: "If Minister Varadkar has identified savings within his budget that he feels that it can be funded, then let him show us where those savings are and we'll consider it then."

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath also welcomed a pledge from the Social Protection Minister to scrap the 'Help To Buy' scheme if it is found to be inflating house prices.

Mr Coveney is responsible for the scheme - but in a clear effort to set out a policy difference, Mr Varadkar indicated he is prepared to abandon it.

Mr McGrath said he backs the leadership frontrunner on the basis that Fianna Fáil has always felt the scheme for first-time buyers would distort the market.

He noted that an independent impact assessment by Indecon is under way.

"That's expected by the end of August, early September.

"The outgoing Minister for Finance has committed that the Government will share that with us and so it will have to be considered in the context of the Budget in October.

"I welcome Leo Varadkar to our point of view on the issue," Mr McGrath said.

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney

Total: 45

Total: 19

Ministers: 17

Ministers: 5

TDs: 16

TDs: 5

Senators: 11

Senators: 8

MEPs: 1

MEPs: 1

Richard Bruton -MinisterSimon Harris - Minister
Frances Fitzgerald - MinisterDamien English - Minister
Michael Ring - MinisterDara Murphy - Minister
Eoghan Murphy - MinisterDavid Stanton - Minister
Sean Kyne - MinisterMarcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister
Joe McHugh - MinisterKate O'Connell - TD
Helen McEntee - MinisterMaria Bailey - TD
Charlie Flanagan - MinisterSean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -MinisterHildegard Naughton - TD
Patrick O'Donovan - MinisterPeter Fitzpatrick - TD
Regina Doherty - MinisterTim Lombard - Senator
Mary Mitchell O'Connor - MinisterJerry Buttimer - Senator
Paschal Donohoe - MinisterPaudie Coffey - Senator
Heather Humphreys - MinisterJames Reilly - Senator
Pat Breen - MinisterColm Burke - Senator
Catherine Byrne - MinisterJohn O'Mahony - Senator
Andrew Doyle - MinisterPaul Coghlan - Senator
John Paul Phelan - TDGabrielle McFadden - Senator
Noel Rock - TDDeirdre Clune - MEP
Tony McLoughlin - TD 
Alan Farrell - TD 
Michael D'Arcy - TD 
Tom Neville - TD 
Josepha Madigan - TD 
Pat Deering - TD 
Jim Daly - TD 
Brendan Griffin - TD 
Ciaran Cannon - TD 
Colm Brophy - TD 
Peter Burke - TD 
Fergus O'Dowd - TD 
John Deasy - TD 
Joe Carey - TD 
Neale Richmond - Senator 
Catherine Noone - Senator 
Paddy Burke - Senator 
Martin Conway - Senator 
Michelle Mulherin - Senator 
Maura Hopkins - Senator 
Ray Butler - Senator 
Frank Feighan - Senator 
Maria Byrne - Senator 
Joe O'Reilly - Senator 
Kieran O'Donnell - Senator 
Brian Hayes - MEP 
Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *
Michael Noonan - MinisterMichael Creed - Minister
Bernard Durkan - TDSean Kelly - MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  

* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

Irish Independent

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