The Government has been urged explain how it will use a near €900m in extra tax funds this year to improve the lives of working families, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Correspondent.
Labour spokesperson on health, jobs, enterprise and innovation Alan Kelly (pictured) raised the issue in the Dáil today, insisting the money must be spent on water refunds, transport improvements and public sector pay hikes if Fine Gael really wants to spread the recovery to those who are continuing to struggle, despite the repeated talk of an economic recovery..
Speaking during the latest leaders questions debate, the outspoken TD and former minister noted that Finance Minister Michael Noonan has told Fine Gael TDs and senators the exchequer returns for November are €280m ahead of schedule.
Coupled with the €680m above-expectations rate for the first 10 months of the year, Mr Kelly said the full year increase is likely to be in excess of €900m, before asking how the Government intends to spend the extra resources.
"There is room to help people. Given the flawed, highly political and legally unsound water commission report, you could provide refunds costing €140m, which would appease back-benchers," he said.
"You could put money into transport. You could give a commitment to address public sector pay," he added, citing a series of issues which are continuing to cause Government serious difficulties.
Responding to the suggestion on behalf of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is in the US on Government business, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the bigger picture is that the economy is improving and accused Mr Kelly of asking a "very general" question for political point-scoring reasons.
However, the Labour TD hit back, saying "people in work today are looking at the cost of living in this county and need to be given something back".
The row took place during a leaders questions debate which also heard Fianna Fáil rural affairs spokesperson Eamon O Cuiv heavily criticise Government over concerns a ferry needed by 900 Aran Island residents is being scrapped until March 17.
Independents4Change TD Joan Collins also raised serious concerns about the recently published State-commissioned report on symphysiotomy by retired judge Maureen Harding Clark, which she said deliberately ignored and undermined the evidence of survivors of the procedure.