Further Coalition spending ‘unlikely’

Enda Kenny says that the Coalition is unwilling to increase its spending promises in the budget despite fresh figures revealing a continued surge in the economy.

He said that the Coalition would not blow the economy and that the recovery was fragile and could also be affected by developments in China and the US.

Opening the Fine Gael think-in in Adare, Limerick, the Taoiseach said the focus of the parliamentary party meeting was to discuss securing the recovery, the budget and plans for the general election next year.

Party sources said last night that reductions in the universal social charge, increased childcare support, and supports for the self- employed would be strong focuses of the Fine Gael election campaign.

The Government would not go beyond the spending limit of €1.5bn set out in the spring statement in next month’s budget, he said.

This will be split evenly between tax cuts and spending measures, but may be much lower when funds are allocated for the public pay measures agreed with unions.

“This Government are not going to do anything in a populist fashion to disrupt that competent management of the economy,” said Mr Kenny.

Party TDs, and senators met to discuss how to get their proposed message across that a re-election of the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition would provide stability as opposed to “chaos” from a disorganised opposition.

Figures yesterday which showed the economy growing by almost 7% were very encouraging, Mr Kenny told reporters. The better-than-expected results are expected to see a further clamour for even better tax cuts.

“But there are challenges out there,” he said. “The situation as far as China is concerned, the decision to be made in the United States as far as the Fed is concerned and the potential rising interest rates and the impact of that and not to forget about the situation in the Middle East.”

He said voters were concerned that politicians might “blow” the recovery because of “populist opportunities”.

Earlier, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said that he did not favour a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition after the general election. Despite having previously said he was open to the idea, he said yesterday he wanted to get the Coalition returned to Government.

The next five years would be different, he said, and the Government would deliver.

Reiterating that he did not have a “Civil War mentality”, Mr Coveney said he would be asking people to vote Fine Gael, then Labour.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar also said yesterday that he favoured the proposed Fine Gael-Labour voting pact for the election.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who is a director for the elections, said she hoped the party could retain most of its seats, despite reduced support in polls.


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