The Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, told Sinn Féin to hire background people “who can add” in a forceful put down of the party’s economic policies.
Minister Noonan said the budget proposals submitted by Sinn Féin would have resulted in an extra €7bn in taxes being imposed on Irish people over the past three years.
Attacking what he described as the party’s “pretend economics” he said: “If you think that this country could take an extra €7bn in taxation, whether it’s the well off, the middle income or the poor who have to pay it, that is absolute nonsense.”
Standing in for the Taoiseach for Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Mr Noonan told Sinn Féin TDs: “If you want to be a serious force in this parliament, will you at least get background people who understand economics and can add?”
He was responding to a question by Sinn Fein’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn who asked if the Government would “withdraw” water charges in light of an improved economic outlook.
“You can continue to protect those at the top of Irish society or you can really genuinely take the pressure off families who have been squeezed over all of these Budgets,” the Donegal TD said.
Mr Noonan said he was happy to see Sinn Féin acknowledging economic progress which was brought about through the implementation of policies which they had opposed.
“I understand why you are a little subdued today, because you hoped to build a political movement on the back of misery and failure in the economy,” he said.
Referring to Sinn Féin’s “red line” issues for entering Government - which include an abolition of property tax and water charges - he said: “Nobody is rushing to join you in Government.”
The Finance Minister said: “Putting down a red line issue is like an oul fella walking up and down the boundaries of the ballroom of romance saying he won’t dance with any of those women over there. No body wants to dance with him.”
Mr Mac Lochlainn accused the Finance Minister of thinking he was a comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and said he “ should not make light of the distress that people are in.”
But Mr Noonan said he was merely making light of “Sinn Fein’s pretend economics.”
At this morning’s cabinet meeting, the Public Expenditure Minister, Brendan Howlin asked Minister to start “settling” on their department’s spending proposals ahead of the Budget.
But he once again urged them to be realistic about what can be spent.