Howlin urges realism as budget nears

Cabinet ministers have been warned to abandon "unrealistic" budget plans and settle for what is available.

Howlin urges realism as budget nears

With less than three weeks to go before the economic decisions for the coming year are unveiled, the Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, has told colleagues to “start settling” after cautioning them that demands were too big.

As a raft of bilateral meetings begin between Mr Howlin and his cabinet colleagues to hammer out the final details of the budget, he “reminded them to be realistic”, a spokesman said.

The move came as Finance Minister Michael Noonan rounded on Sinn Féin’s policies as “economic nonsense”.

Mr Noonan said the party was insisting it would not go into a coalition unless the property tax and water charges were abolished.

“Putting down a red-line issue is like an auld fella walking up and down the boundaries of the ballroom of romance, saying that he won’t dance with any of those women over there — nobody wants to dance with him!” Mr Noonan told the Dáil.

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn hit back at Mr Noonan by branding him and his colleagues as a bunch of “comedians”.

The Donegal TD expressed despair at what he called Government “budget kite-flying, shadow-boxing, and sham-fighting between Fine Gael and Labour” as he said the Government should be concentrating on easing the tax burden on struggling families.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said people were left wondering “how the hell they are going to pay” water bills as he urged the abolition of the new charge.

Mr Noonan insisted that the economic recovery was frustrating Sinn Féin’s aim of “building a political movement on the back of misery and failure”.

Speaking in New York, Taoiseach Enda Kenny again signalled tax cuts saying: “The 52% burden of tax that people pay from a combination of source is anti-jobs, anti-enterprise, and too high. We have made it clear that a priority of Government, not just for this budget but for budgets in the future, is to commence the reduction of that level of burden of 52% and I have been very clear about that.”

He also brushed aside calls by the Fiscal Advisory Council to bring in a tough budget. Stressing that the economic watchdog was there to give advice, Mr Kenny said: “At the end of the day, it is a matter for the political process. Our people have come through very challenging times. Many are still not feeling the effect of the signs of confidence around the country.”

With final Cabinet negotiation under way, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the country is in its best financial health for six years.

“The money is limited,” she said. “On the other hand this is probably the best situation the country has been in vis-à-vis a budget since the bank guarantee of just six years ago.”

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