Michael Noonan: €1.24bn costing shortfall in Fianna Fáil’s manifesto is the party’s ‘black hole of Calcutta’

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has branded a €1.24bn shortfall in the costings in Fianna Fáil’s election manifesto as the party’s “black hole of Calcutta”

Mr Noonan was speaking at a press event in Dublin, where he sought to question Fianna Fáil’s and Sinn Fein’s economic credentials.

He also took aim at what he called “Chicken Licken economists” who have sought to criticise his promises on USC.

“We have a situation of Fianna Fáil on the road making it up as they go along and I don’t think they are yet fit to be restored to government,” he said.

He said that there had been various black holes, adding: “This is Fianna Fáil’s black hole of Calcutta as they have taken the resources that are available and allocated all of them.”

The veteran Limerick TD said the party had factored in the costings of the Lansdowne Road Agreement but had not allowed for anything beyond 2018, adding that the black hole was €1.24bn.

“There are a lot of Chicken Licken economists who say the sky is always going to fall in. If you believe the sky is going to fall in you will be totally paralysed and you won’t do anything,” Mr Noonan said.

He said that as minister, he had to identify the risk, put a number on it, and then plan for the country based on an assessment of risk.

Asked about his involvement in the campaign to date, he said: “We had a plan about the participation of ministers and I have done three major interviews.”

And responding to an assertion by Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty that the minister had under-calculated the cost of abolishing the USC by €500m, Mr Noonan said: “Pearse Doherty is wrong. There is no point in making an assertion without being able to prove it.

Pearse Doherty
Pearse Doherty

“Pearse’s problem is that he got his maths grinds, or wherever he learned his maths, at the Gerry Adams maths school,” he added.

For its part, Fianna Fáil has denied there are holes in its election spending promises after claims by Mr Noonan that the party has left out costings for a new public sector pay deal.

Mr Noonan says Fianna Fáil has made commitments to increase public pay, but that its manifesto makes no actual provisions for pay increases after the current agreement expires in 2018.

The Fine Gael minister has now claimed that Fianna Fáil has been caught out with a “massive deception” in its election manifesto.

Responding to the claims, the party’s public expenditure spokesman Sean Fleming denied there were gaps in Fianna Fáil’s spending proposals.

Sean Fleming
Sean Fleming

Fianna Fáil has proposed a €8.6bn plan over the next five years as opposed to Fine Gael’s €10.1bn.

Mr Fleming said the minister in previous comments had pointed out that it would be unwise to predict public sector pay increases ahead of emergency financial legislation being unwound and negotiations beginning between the government and worker representatives.

Mr Fleming said Fianna Fáil stood over its figures and had taken a “prudent” approach and that Mr Noonan had not by including an extra €1.5bn in spending in Fine Gael’s plan.

The actual amount in pay increases for public service workers after the Lansdowne Road agreement concludes in 2018 would depend on the fiscal space available then, added Mr Fleming.

“No minister would put a figure in as it would be giving away his negotiation position.”

Fianna Fáil is predicting that by then there would be a reduced cost of living which would help negotiations on any new pay deal, he added

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