Fianna Fáil is likely to hold back on publishing the exact costs for its budget wishlist for up to a fortnight, despite its first formal meeting with Fine Gael over the stand-off scheduled for tomorrow.
The party’s public expenditure and reform spokesman, Dara Calleary, confirmed the situation yesterday as a series of Fine Gael TDs hit out at Fianna Fáil for not explaining how it would pay for its proposals.
Speaking at the end of his party’s pre-Dáil think-in at the Seven Oaks Hotel in Carlow, Mr Calleary — who alongside finance spokesman Michael McGrath is central to calculating the costs — said Fianna Fáil already has a clear view of how much its demands will cost.
Confirming that Fianna Fáil intends to work within Fine Gael’s previously stated €1bn fiscal space for spending and tax changes, he said final details will not be revealed until after the pre-budget exchequer figures are published — a date which traditionally takes place on the Friday before the budget.
The move is likely to cause fresh friction between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil before the first formal meetings between the two parties over the budget make-up tomorrow.
While Fianna Fáil is in opposition, under its confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael, a series of meetings have been arranged between Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, Mr McGrath, and Mr Calleary.
Informal meetings have already taken place, but meetings tomorrow and next week will help decide key issues for Budget 2017.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said the budget must include space for the pension, education, and agriculture spending rises his party is seeking. The lack of exact costs for these “priorities” has led to vocal criticism from Fine Gael.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar — who last week warned that a mooted €5 pension rise would use up his department’s entire budget — said it is time for Fianna Fáil to stop talking about “wishlists” and to “pony up” exact figures.
The remark was supported by a number of Fine Gael TDs yesterday, with Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke claiming Fianna Fáil is “good at spending wishlists but poor at economic management”. He said that “nothing has changed” since the recession.
Alan Farrell was equally critical, saying Fianna Fáil needs “to tell people what public services they’ll cut or taxes they’ll hike” if they “insist” on abolishing water charges and other matters.
Despite the criticism, Fianna Fáil is unlikely to release its costed priorities list for up to a fortnight.
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