Friday 18 October 2019

Kevin Doyle: 'Donohoe moves to 're-profile' as SF does its best Clint Eastwood'


Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe pictured at a press briefing outside Government Buildings. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe pictured at a press briefing outside Government Buildings. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

When politicians announce €100m in funding it's a 'great day for the parish' but cancelling it is merely a bit of "re-profiling".

It is clear now that the National Children's Hospital is too big to fail. The €1.7bn project is to be prioritised above all else.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe is used to delivering good news, but after days of fighting fires on several fronts he looked decidedly tired as he arrived at Government Buildings with what has become known as the 'hit-list'.

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He assured us it's not as bad as everybody feared. A lack of an executive in Northern Ireland means there's €27m for the A5 motorway resting in an account that can't be spent. A series of funds launched, and relaunched, as part of Project Ireland 2040 will be held back for a few months. That will allow another €16m go into the hole at the St James's site.

And on it went through various departments.

Back in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was arguing the "re-profile" of expenditure needed 'context'.

"The budget for infrastructure for this year is €7,000m. That is an increase of €1,500m on last year so we are re-profiling €100m of an increase of €1,500m," he said in a dizzying tone. Sitting beside the Taoiseach, Health Minister Simon Harris was flicking through notes before delivering his apology over the debacle.

For the first time since God knows when, nobody mentioned Brexit for an entire session of Leaders' Questions.

This is a real crisis for Fine Gael. It may not see it as a financial crisis - because €100m is "manageable" - but it's definitely a political one.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is now in no doubt he can't prop up this Government for a minute longer than necessary. His deputy Dara Calleary admitted yesterday there are "a lot of people not happy with Confidence and Supply" but forcing Mr Harris out of office will achieve nothing right now.

Over on the Sinn Féin benches, Mary Lou McDonald was resorting to the usual 'off with his head' antics.

But Mr Harris wasn't really her target at all. Her beef is with Fianna Fáil, which she views as more of a direct electoral threat.

"Fianna Fáil might be prepared to sit on its hands: we will not," Ms McDonald said, referencing her party's no-confidence motion in the minister.

Mr Martin retorted that he was trying to be "constructive" whereas Sinn Féin is like Clint Eastwood "when the cowboy arrived into town, the first thing he did was reach for his holster".

"Sinn Féin's first instinct following a controversy of this kind is to reach for a private members' motion of no confidence," he said.

You'd nearly miss Brexit being the top of the news agenda.

Irish Independent

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