Howlin hails ‘remarkable turnaround’ during Budget 2016 speech

Howlin hails ‘remarkable turnaround’ during Budget 2016 speech

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin declared “a remarkable turnaround” in Ireland's fortunes, which he said was a tribute to the resilience of the Irish people.

But he was heckled from the Opposition benches when he dismissed claims of increased inequality under the Fine Gael/Labour coalition.

“It has become popular to say that under this Government, inequality has risen. This is simply not true,” he said to jeers from across the chamber.

“Our adjustment has been a difficult one, but a fair one.

“Those with the most have given the most.”

Mr Howlin confirmed new measures will include free childcare for children from three years of age until they are five and a half, or until they start primary school.

An extra €15m has been earmarked for the scheme specifically for children with disabilities.

Child Benefit payments are to go up by €5 from next year, to €140 per month for every child.

Howlin hails ‘remarkable turnaround’ during Budget 2016 speech

Mr Howlin also announced imminent legislation for statutory paternity leave of two weeks, to take effect from next September.

Howlin hails ‘remarkable turnaround’ during Budget 2016 speech

Mr Howlin said free GP care - currently only available to under 6s and over 70s - would be extended to all children under 12 years.

But the proposal will be “subject to successful negotiation with doctors representatives”, he added.

Howlin hails ‘remarkable turnaround’ during Budget 2016 speech

The plan will be funded by a €13.2bn allocation for health services next year.

The Garda will get funding to recruit and train an extra 600 recruits, Mr Howlin said.

Some €50m is also being set aside to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

Concluding the coalition's fifth Budget, Mr Howlin claimed the government had brought the country “back from the brink”.

“Our recovery, though not yet complete, is not only a justification of our policies, but a condemnation of the easy alternatives proffered by some,” he said.

“Today, we reap the benefits of the hard work and resilience of the Irish people, as we set our course for a better Ireland.”

READ MORE: Budget 2016: Main points

Read Brendan Howlin’s Budget 2016 statement in full here.

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