Balancing the books the greatest priority of his government, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that balancing the books for the first time in ten years is the greatest priority of his government, the Dáil has heard, writes Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner Political Editor.

In the first Leaders' Questions of the new Dáil year, Mr Varadkar said that public spending will increase next year by €1.5bn and will be spent on better services and improved infrastructure.

“We are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past, but we are going to learn from them,” said Mr Varadkar to Labour leader Brendan Howlin during testy exchanges.

“I didn't twist your words, Deputy Howlin, you twisted mine,” Mr Varadkar said as he described Mr Howlin's comments as “nonsense”.

Mr Howlin called on Mr Varadkar not to waste the additional money available to Government next year by reducing taxes, but rather to spend it on increasing services, specifying four examples.

The Labour leader said the proposed cuts will mean €4 a week to the top earners or €2 a week to lower paid workers, adding no one will see any benefit from that.

Mr Varadkar was also pressed by Independent TD Noel Grealish on the threat of a pull out by Apple from their planned €850 million development in Galway, and called on the Taoiseach to give a commitment that planning laws would be changed to ensure such large developments are not jeopardised.

The plant would be the most significant development in the West of Ireland if it goes ahead.

Mr Varadkar said he has spoken recently with senior Apple officials who voiced their frustration at the delays in the planning process but said they remain committed to the Athenry site.

The Taoiseach said he was concerned that such delays could jeopardise future projects in Ireland and said it is a matter which is under review.

“I agree with your sentiments, decisions should be made quickly. It is frustrating that such decisions are delayed and it is not limited to the private sector,” he said.

“We will work very hard to bring this project to fruition,” Mr Varadkar said.

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