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Taoiseach does a u-turn on comment that 'workers contacted him, amazed at extra money in wages after Budget'


Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny

Taoiseach Enda Kenny claimed grateful workers contacted him amazed at the extra money in their wages following the Budget’s tax breaks, but later admitted it was just a ‘turn of phrase’.

The Taoiseach made the remarks yesterday, claiming workers thought they were being overpaid when they got their first pay packet of the year, thanks to the Budget’s tax measures.

“It was great to see some people contacting us, saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure whether it was a mistake or not, but I seem to have got extra money in this last payment’.

“We want to continue that,” he added.

However, the Taoiseach later adjusted his anecdote after he was asked who had contacted him.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach told The Irish Sun the comments had simply been ‘a turn of phrase’.

And the Taoiseach's spokesman told independent.ie this morning that it was "clear" some people were surprised at "pay rises", although there are no specifics.

"The government has been outlining clearly since the budget that people will feel modest pay rises in their pay packets in January," he added.

"It's clear some people weren't expecting it despite the fact many people have known about it as it has been flagged many times since the budget," he claimed.

Fianna Fail spokesperson on Social Protection Willie O'Dea later said; "I certainly can't imagine that anyone in Ireland would be gaining enough in their pockets to think it was worthwhile picking up the phone and share their good fortune with the Goverment."

Meanwhile, the Government is set to utilise its Spring Statement to outline its tax policy for up to five years, in a bid to win confidence for another term in office.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste Joan Burton yesterday outlined details of a renewed Action Plan for Jobs, but it now appears that the April statement could also be used to set out a "road map" for taxation.

They hope that this will help pave the way for the Coalition to return to power following an expected general election early next year.

Mr Kenny last night reiterated his commitment to achieving full employment by 2018, which is two years earlier than the previous target of 2020.

He also said that the Government would aim to have 40,000 jobs created in 2015, on top of the 80,000 already created.

Mr Kenny said the Government was anxious for people to feel the benefits of the improving economy not only in their daily lives, but also in their cheques.

Mr Kenny claimed that some people had contacted the Government expressing surprise over some of the tax cuts delivered this month.

"I'm hopeful that we can give everybody hope in the country. This is the first Budget in seven years where some money was given back to people.

"And we hope to continue that flexibility in the time ahead as we prepare for Budget 2016," the Taoiseach said.

"But we are very anxious to see that the benefits of a rising economy are spread throughout the country and people can see that in their daily lives, but also in their cheques.

"It was great to see, last week, some people contacting us and saying 'Well I'm not sure whether it was a mistake or not, but I seem to have got extra money in this last payment'. We want to continue that."

The Tanaiste last night said she hoped to have a report from the new Low Pay Commission by this summer.

Ms Burton told RTE that since becoming leader of the Labour Party, her aim has been "to help to get more of our people back to work".

She said returning to full employment by 2018 could be achieved.

"It's actually a very realistic target; it's a very ambitious target. Remember when we took office the country was in the process of having shed a quarter of a million jobs. In fact the total job losses went over 300,000," she said.

The Government also approved a major new tourism plan which aims to increase revenues by €5bn per year by 2025.

The plan for the next decade also hopes to create 50,000 extra jobs in the tourism sector in the same period.

And separately, talks at reversing pay cuts for public servants may kick off as early as April in order to avoid a "hiatus" when the Haddington Road deal ends.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said he hoped discussions would begin in the second or third quarter of the year, adding that some public servants had taken three pay cuts.

He said that the issue of restoration of pay in the public sector was to form a major part of the Government's agenda in 2015.

The cost-cutting Haddington Road deal on public sector pay runs out in July 2016.

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