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Varadkar and Kenny clash on Budget claims

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has shot down claims by Health Minister Leo Varadkar that people may see their weekly pay increase by between €5 and €10 in next month's Budget.

Mr Kenny also called on the Health Minister to find ways of implementing Government policies introduced by his predecessor, James Reilly, after Mr Varadkar suggested he might not be able to introduce free GP care for under-sixes this year.


"I am far more interested in hearing how you set about achieving what the Government's targets are instead of giving endless volumes of recommendations telling me why things can't be done," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Varadkar yesterday raised expectations among workers by suggesting that pay packets may increase by an "extra fiver or a tenner" during an interview on RTE Radio One.

"I think people would like to see that because it would be real evidence that the economy is recovering," he said.

"It would also help to boost the economy itself by increasing demand.

A few hours later, Mr Kenny insisted no measures had been agreed by the Government.

"We have made no decisions about any of these figures at all," he said.

During the interview, Mr Varadkar also cast doubt over the Government's plans to introduce free GP care for children under six this year by saying he was unsure that agreement could be reached with doctors.

Mr Varadkar previously said he was committed to introducing free GP care for the under-sixes and over-70s.

The minister also said he would not be abolishing the HSE during the term of the Government, as was proposed by Dr Reilly.

Mr Varadkar said he would need an additional €500m to fill the hole in the Department of Health's budget.

When asked about his comments, Mr Kenny said he was "amused" at how easy it was to produce recommendations for why things could not be done.

Meanwhile, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin signalled a possible end of austerity by saying Budget 2015 would be "broadly neutral", adding that the Government did not expect to make a €2.1bn adjustment.