TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said that ‘middle Ireland’ continues to be his priority as he stands firm on Fine Gael’s demands in coalition.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Varadkar said that the tax package in the next budget must be “as good or bigger” than the last.
Looking out for middle Ireland is “part of Fine Gael’s identity”, Varadkar said.
Earlier this week, Fine Gael junior ministers Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Martin Heydon and Peter Burke co-wrote an article for the Irish Independent that called for a “well-earned” tax break for workers.
The proposal is estimated to cost in the region of €1.5 billion.
Varadkar said that, while he agrees with and knew about the article, none of his advisers were involved in its production, “to my knowledge”.
He and Tánaiste Micheál Martin spoke about the opinion piece after its publication, but Varadkar declined to share what was said.
“If you think about it, what’s the basis of Fine Gael’s participation in this government? It’s to make sure that middle Ireland gets looked out for, and gets looked after,” he told The Irish Times.
“So the Greens had very clear demands as to what they wanted coming into government. The 51 per cent target on emissions and the carbon tax.
“Fianna Fáil [was] very clear on pension reform, that they didn’t want to increase the pension age, notwithstanding the fact that Ifac [the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council] and others said that that was the fiscally prudent thing to do.
“We were very clear that our basis for participation in this government is that middle Ireland gets looked after, and that’s looking after working people, it’s looking after business, it’s promoting things like home ownership.”
‘Not the same’
This echoed comments made by Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney earlier this week, in which he said that the government parties are not the same just because they are in coalition.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Coveney said that the intention of the article wasn’t to upset his coalition colleagues, but rather to share his party’s point of view.
“There are a lot of senior mature politicians in government and, you know, because we’re in a coalition, doesn’t mean we’re the same,” he said.
“Different parties have different priorities in government, and at different times, those priorities appear in newspapers and opinion pieces.
“This is no different to that.”
Coveney played down perceived tensions in government, saying that the parties “have worked well together” so far.
“Let’s be clear. Nobody’s bullying anybody,” he said.
“This is a good coalition government.
“That doesn’t mean that the parties have the same views all the time when it comes to policy and what we’re seeing now is different parties in the coalition outlining different views as to how we can use a growing strong economy to ensure that we support families across the country.”
Source : The Journal