Monday 20 November 2017

Varadkar has a need to 'muscle in on our good news' - say Independents

Special ‘access’ over the Budget: Michael Harty
Special ‘access’ over the Budget: Michael Harty

Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Independents ministers are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they view as Leo Varadkar's desire to attach his name to their 'good news'.

Several ministers say that after initially having a very positive relationship the Taoiseach they are now "wary" of his micromanagement.

Mr Varadkar and his officials are in regular contact with the six Independent ministers on whose support the Government relies, but sources told the Irish Independent relations are "uneasy".

"There hasn't been a big bust-up or anything like that, but a few of us feel like there are things happening in the background that we're not being told about," said one minister.

Another claimed Mr Varadkar "wants to know our every movement in case he's missing out on some good news".

Sources pointed to Fine Gael's efforts to claim full credit for the new Affordable Childcare Scheme over the summer, effectively writing Children's Minister Katherine Zappone out of the picture.

There was also unhappiness in the Independent Alliance when the Fine Gael press office released a statement from TD Noel Rock calling for the return of the telephone allowance in the Budget - just days after Alliance ministers had privately listed this in their pre-Budget demands.

Meanwhile, Independent TD Michael Harty has said he has been given special "access" to ministers involved in the Budget, despite refusing to vote for Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach.

Dr Harty, a deputy for Clare, has held pre-Budget meetings with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. The first-time TD said he was confident a number of his proposals would be announced in the Budget.

Among the proposals he tabled was a rural resettlement scheme and a special VAT rebate scheme for charities.

"I don't know what contact other independents have with ministers, but my association with ministers Zappone and Naughten is an advantage and gives me such access," he said.

Irish Independent

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