Taoiseach Enda Kenny has hit back at Fianna Fáil demands to maintain the USC, insisting Fine Gael is standing by the plan to scrap it and that the charge was only necessary because Fianna Fáil ruined the economy.
Mr Kenny made the remark in response to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s comments yesterday that cutting the USC is “not in the land of reality” in light of growing national and global economic concerns.
Mr Martin said the potential risks posed by Brexit, the election of Donald Trump in the US, and an increasingly divided EU means plans to scrap the USC entirely by the end of the decade should be postponed.
In an attack on the Fine Gael policy, Mr Martin said politicians need to be “honest” with the public in order to prevent another crash.
“I don’t think you can eliminate USC in light of all the challenges. It can’t happen. It’s not in the land of reality,” he said.
Responding to the comments after the North-South Ministerial Council in Co Armagh, Mr Kenny accepted that the parties must work together due to the Dáil’s confidence and supply arrangement but heavily criticised Mr Martin for the comments.
The Taoiseach insisted Fine Gael is standing by its commitment to scrap USC and that the charge was only needed in the first place because of Fianna Fáil’s “ruinous” management of the economy.
“The fact of the matter is I have to work very effectively with Micheál Martin as leader of the Fianna Fáil party, in the context of the Government and the arrangements that we have,” said Mr Kenny.
“He would be very associated with the USC, wouldn’t he. He was a member of a Government that after the most ruinous, calamitous management of any economy brought in the USC as an emergency tax measure,
“The Fine Gael party have a very clear intention of abolishing that USC over a five-year period, and we stand by that.”
The strong rebuke of Mr Martin’s comments is likely to cause fresh friction between Ireland’s two largest parties as the future of the tentative economic recovery becomes an increasingly dominant factor in the Irish political arena.
In a speech to the Small Firms Association at the Mansion House in Dublin city centre yesterday, Mr Martin again warned Ireland is facing a “defining moment for our country”.
He added that while there are calls for early public pay rises, ignoring the need for “restraint is simply wrong”.
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