Taoiseach hits out at Sinn Féin's €1.4bn spend call

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has hit out at Sinn Féin calls to spend an additional €1.4bn in October’s budget, saying that would lead to another crash.

During sharp exchanges at leaders’ questions, Mr Varadkar said even though EU rules would permit the spending, it would require borrowing and that would be the wrong thing to do.

Sinn Féin’s deputy Dáil leader Pearse Doherty said the crises in housing and health mean the Government should spend the money now.

“By taking a decision not to invest the €1.4bn that is available to the Government in the upcoming budget under the fiscal rules, it is deliberately choosing once again not to address the social crises that we have in this State, crises that have been created as a result of a decade of underinvestment by this Government and previous Fianna Fáil-led governments,” Mr Doherty said.

That lack of investment has resulted in hospital waiting lists of over 700,000 people. It has resulted in 100,000 people on hospital trolleys last year alone. It has resulted in more than 4,000 children waking up this morning in emergency accommodation.

He asked the Taoiseach what would he say to those people waiting on hospital trolleys and living in hotels.

In response, Mr Varadkar said: “What I say to those families is that they should be very afraid of Sinn Féin.”

He added: “Sinn Féin’s policy, at the worst possible time in the economic cycle, is to borrow more and increase debt, which will lead to a new financial crisis and a further economic downturn. The people who suffer the most during a downturn are the very people the Deputy is talking about.”

The Taoiseach criticised Mr Doherty for now accepting the EU’s fiscal rules having opposed them two years ago. “It is curious and interesting that Sinn Féin now agrees with the fiscal rules when that party campaigned only a few years ago against the fiscal treaty itself, just as it campaigned against the single market and just as it campaigned against Ireland joining the European Union in the first place. I do not know whether it is just that one cannot believe Sinn Féin or whether it has really changed its spots,” he said.

The summer economic statement, which presages the budget, provides for an increase in public spending next year of €3.4bn. That is one of the largest increases in public spending in a very long time, the Taoiseach said.

Mr Doherty said despite very strict fiscal rules we can spend an additional €1.4bn to deal with these crises, but the Government in its ivory tower has decided not to do so. “Its message is clearly ‘Suck it up and wait’. We say that is the wrong decision,” he said.

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