Health Minister James Reilly was warned he faces an “impossible situation” after cuts of €900m in his department were discussed by Cabinet yesterday — far greater than the €700m previously anticipated.
After a marathon meeting of ministers to discuss next week’s €3.5bn adjustment, Dr Reilly briefed some Fine Gael TDs who said he did not seem to “grasp the enormous consequences” of imposing such savage cuts. The minister had indicated that some of the €900m will be redirected to other services, such as medical cards for some groups.
The budget is a battle between Dr Reilly and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton whose departments will be the main source of the €2.25bn spending cuts.
Dr Reilly is coming under sharp criticism from within Fine Gael, with TDs worried he will handle cuts in his department badly for a second year.
“People felt health was badly managed this year — there was a sense of loss of control,” said one TD.
“But if he is landed with €900m of cuts on Wednesday, people will put serious questions over whether he can be in charge of health for much longer into the new year.”
The Coalition has meanwhile been urged to provide waivers to minimise the effect of the property charge on the worse off.
The tax is expected to be calculated at 0.2% of house value. This means a property worth €175,000 would pay €300 annually and a home worth €275,000 would pay €550 when the tax comes into effect in Jul 2013.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald told Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that the Coalition should “have the decency” to grant “extensive” waivers.
Meanwhile, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said Ireland’s six months at the helm of the EU will face “another burden” due to the union’s failure to agree on a eurozone-wide banking supervisor.
He was speaking in Dublin ahead of Ireland taking over the presidency on the EU on Jan 1.
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