Trust us, says Varadkar as Budget plans are under fire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted his Government was the "only people you can trust to keep the economy stable" despite a critical assessment of their financial planning.
While saying he was not dismissing the warnings of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC), Mr Varadkar argued that Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe was keeping "a tight rein on public spending".
He lashed out at Opposition parties and said: "It's really important that we listen to these warnings and keep those left-wing parties out of government, because if they get in, everybody will suffer, especially the poor."
IFAC was set up to provide an independent assessment of Government forecasts as part of the EU and IMF bailout.
Its latest report said there were "echoes of policy mistakes of the past" and Budget 2019 was not "conducive to prudent economic and budgetary management".
The assessment was rejected by both the Taoiseach and Finance Minister yesterday - although they insisted they would study it "carefully".
Mr Varadkar said the European Commission had recently given the Budget full clearance and new spending was being matched by tax increases in other areas.
"Every day I walk into the Dáil, there is a demand for more spending," he said.
"Really, the only people who you can trust to keep the economy stable, to keep public spending controlled, to balance the books, to pay down the debts, are the people that have actually done it.
"They are Fine Gael and the Independents in government.
"If you listen to the Opposition, it's 'borrow more, spend more, don't set up a rainy day fund'. Those people would have us back to austerity very quickly."
The Taoiseach said there were "enormous demands" on health and further investment was warranted in the areas of housing and climate change.
Mr Donohoe questioned what people would say if he was allocating funding for fewer homes or less investment in transport.
But he added: "One of the characteristics of populist governments is that they tend to dismiss institutions and criticism. We'll be studying the report from IFAC and considering their views.
"We have seen when these kind of views have been missed in the past, the price that has been paid."
Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty said the IFAC report showed the Government was "all spin and no substance".
"It was a Budget based on a year of lectures and promises about stability and prudence," he said. "The IFAC have now completely savaged the Government's ongoing spin."