Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has sought Cabinet approval to make further changes to the threshold up to which an income-tax rebate worth up to €20,000 can be claimed under the help-to-buy scheme, due to political pressure from Fianna Fáil. File photograph: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Central Bank says income-tax rebate could encourage people to take on too much debt

People caught with small amounts of drugs shuld be directed towards healthcare rather than immediately convicted of a criminal offence, according to a new policy being put forward by Fianna Fáil.  Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times.

Policy paper also says single injection centre should be introduced on a pilot basis

The Government is to table significant amendments to one of its signature budget proposals, the income tax rebate for first-time buyers.

Central Bank is understood to have raised concerns about the Budget 2017 proposal

The controversial JobBridge employment scheme is to be closed off for new applicants from Friday, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar has said.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Varadkar says controversial work experience scheme was a ‘real success’

 Brian Cowen and the late Brian Linehan. ‘Hell at the Gates: The Inside Story of Ireland’s Financial Downfall’ features contributions from Cowen, while the Linehan view is given by the former minister’s brother Conor and his aunt Mary O’Rourke. Photograph: Eric Luke

Book details fall of FF, features contributions from Brian Cowen and Brian Linehan’s family

Katherine Zappone announced the plan as part of this week’s budget. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Those likely to benefit include childminders who offer care services in their own home

Ministers will not take pay rises of €12,000 due to them next spring under public sector pay deals, the Department of Public Expenditure has said. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Sinn Féin calls on Government to ‘put a stop’ to pay increase of over €5,000 for TDs

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said on Wednesday the €1.3 billion package of measures in Budget 2017 “isn’t, really” in breach of EU rules. Graphic: The Irish Times

First-time buyer’s allowance ‘madness, wasteful and inequitable’, says Donnelly

Fianna Fáil will allow the budget to pass by abstaining in Dáil votes, but it is objecting to two key measures: first-time buyers scheme and subsidised childcare plan. Photographs: The Irish Times

Party chief Micheál Martin says FF took tough line in negotiations with Fine Gael

 Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath (left) and Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Dara Calleary.  File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Michael McGrath and Dara Calleary spent weeks ensuring package acceptable to FF

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at Government Buildings for the budget photocall. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Analysis: Stuffing money into pockets of elderly not radical change promised, writes Fiach Kelly

Three USC rates cut, price of cigarettes up but alcohol and fuel unchanged, all social welfare payments to rise by €5 per week,(...)

Childcare policy: Fine Gael had argued for greater access to the scheme for the so-called squeezed middle of people earning up to €70,000. Photograph: iStockphoto

State subsidy of up to €900 for all children between six months and three

 Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar. Mr Varadkar is among the candidates to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny when he steps down as Fine Gael leader. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Backbenchers claim Fianna Fáil using budget in latest attempt to undermine Minister

Mr Martin denied that his party was consistently targeting Mr Varadkar in an effort to damage him in advance of the Dublin West TD possible assuming the leadership of Fine Gael.  File photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The Fianna Fáil leader says he is concerned about the emergence of €200m extra budget money

Ensuring the budget has a Fianna Fáil stamp: Party spokesmen on public expenditure and finance Dara Calleary and Michael McGrath. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil will seek to distance itself from Government by returning to core values

Fianna Fáil spokesman on finance Michael McGrath and its spokesman on public expenditure and reform, Dara Calleary TD. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Divisions remain over start date of proposed €5 a week increase in old-age pension

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe and  Minister for Finance Michael Noonan are set to spend more money on higher than expected cuts to the Universal Social Charge. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

‘Fiscal space’ expands as Cabinet meets to discuss next Tuesday’s budget package

Ghost estate: A new so-called “repair and leasing scheme” will be tried out on a pilot basis over the next six months in Carlow and Waterford and will be rolled out nationally thereafter. The scheme is designed to bring vacant and unused houses back into use.  File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

‘Rebuilding Ireland’ repair scheme aims to provide extra 47,000 housing units by 2021

Mr Varadkar confirmed there would be an increase in the state pension announced in next week’s budget. He said: “It is fair the budget passes the fairness test.”Photograph: Cyril Byrne / THE IRISH TIMES

Minister seeking additional benefits for families with children and those on illness benefit

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan speaking at the  Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co. Wexford, in September. Photograph: Patrick Browne.

Those who championed changes in justice must give reforms time to prove their worth

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has agreed the USC measure with Fianna Fáil and the Independent members of Government. Photo:

Budget 2017: First-time buyers may get higher income tax refund than previously flagged

Minister for Transport Shane Ross: his advisors are said to have sought advice from lobby group Age Action Ireland on what to look for in budget talks while sources say Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe has already rejected a number of payment restorations. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg.

Shane Ross leads efforts on concessions to demonstrate influence in Government

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the abolition of the 9  per cent VAT rate on hotel beds would raise €175 million and a new 7 per cent income tax rate on earnings over €100,000 would raise €464 million. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Party’s tax-raising measures include abolition of 9 per cent VAT rate on hotel beds

Sinn Féin’s €111  million childcare plan would, on average, reduce fees by €96 per week per child, said Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Party plans to raise extra €1 billion in tax despite scrapping property and water charges

Government sources say forced marriages are a “very hidden” practice and a lack of evidence does not mean they are not happening. File photograph: Getty Images

Minister for Justice seeks backing to include new measures in draft Domestic Violence Bill

Finance Minister Michael Noonan, whose nex tax rules for so-called vulture funds have been described as inadequate. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Oireachtas budgetary committee says further measures needed to plug legal loophole

The Natural History Museum: sources said the payment is necessary to ensure the Seanad is located near Leinster House, which will allow senators and staff to stay in their existing offices. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Upper House has been forced to find a new home while Leinster House undergoes repairs

First-time homebuyers are to be given a refund on income tax  under proposals expected to be included in next month’s Budget. File photograph: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Minister for Finance’s proposed rebate to range between €5,000 and €15,000

The Government has committed to increasing the old-age pension by €5 in  Budget 2017.

Government also commits to extending medical card cover to 10,000 children

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has denied that she has been kept in the dark about alternatives to her plans for a subsidised childcare package. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Minister for Children denies being kept in the dark over alternatives to her proposals

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone had put forward a plan for a subsidised childcare scheme initially aimed at lower income families. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Party members unhappy Minister for Children’s scheme neglects ‘squeezed middle’

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin: “The British people cannot yet understand the consequences of what they have done.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

Labour Party leader points to how little attention British voters paid to the effect of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Good Fr(...)

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan: The Government has about €1 billion to spend in the Budget, split on a 2:1 basis between spending increases and tax cuts. Photograph: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

USC reductions and inheritance tax changes planned

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny addresses a gathering of Fine Gael supporters in CHQ Building, Custom House Quay, Dublin. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Party’s election campaign was ‘dour’ and failed to respond to ‘real unease’, study finds

 Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar samples oysters at the Galway Market over the weekend  with Galway City Councillor Padraig Conneely (left) and Hildegarde Naughton TD. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Three-way fight will have no official moves until Enda Kenny willingly steps aside

TDs Bríd Smith  and  Ruth Coppinger at the  Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit think-in at the Hilton Hotel in Kilmainham, Dublin. “AAA-PBP will continue to challenge the neo-liberal agenda and rule of the 1 per cent,” the group said. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Richard Boyd Barrett says it’s time for a new left-wing force can ‘transform Irish society’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: this week said he does not “envisage” charges “coming back”, only for certain party figures to claim they could return at some stage in the future. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fianna Fáil leader’s shifting position on water charges requires deeper scrutiny

Fianna Fáil spokesman on water Barry Cowen. Fianna Fáil has estimated that giving householders who paid their water charges a tax credit would cost €50m. File photograph: Aidan Crawley

Fianna Fáil considers how to refund householders who paid their Irish Water bills

Enda Kenny at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore, Co Offaly. “This is a period of uncertainty,” he said, adding that the Budget will be Brexit-proofed. Photograph: Eric Luke

Taoiseach says implications from triggering of article 50 by Theresa May will be profound

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has been asked to reconfigure elements of her proposed budget package on childcare, amid concerns in Fine Gael that the so-called ‘squeezed middle’ will not benefit from the plans. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times.

Katherine Zappone asked to reconfigure elements of proposed budget package

The Citizens’ Assembly may also decide to recommend issues to the Government for consideration. Photograph: The Irish Times

Taoiseach indicates Saturday date for forum to first tackle matter of Eight Amendment

Enda Kenny: Consideration of abortion issue by citizens’ assembly will take ’six, seven, eight’ months. Photograph: Reuters

Taoiseach says indications coming from David Davis on triggering Article 50

Alan Shatter: the former minister   had a dispute with   national director of elections Brian Hayes about a vote management strategy in  Dublin Rathdown. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Review for Fine Gael executive council also reveals Shatter dispute with Hayes

  Enda Kenny with  Waterford TD John Deasy who accused the Taoiseach  of making decisions so as to keep the Government together, instead of for the good of the country. Photograph: Eric Luke

Outspoken critic of Taoiseach Deasy was on PAC in last Dáil inquiry into Project Eagle

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone: she says the subsidy would be higher for lower-income families and drop off as parental net income increases.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Government considering means-tested scheme to pay bills directly to providers

A credit union survey earlier this year found the average cost of sending a child to a non-fee-paying primary school in the coming year will be just under €1,000, while the cost of a “free” education in any of the State’s secondary schools will climb to almost €1,500. File photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Parents to get some financial relief under government’s Action Plan for Education

Budget 2017: It is envisaged that income thresholds would rise over a number of budgets to include higher-earning families. Photograph: Getty Images

Means-tested scheme is expected to be rolled out over a number of years from September

Minister of State for Skills John Halligan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Action plan for Education at St Brigid’s School on Cork Street in Dublin.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Action Plan for Education to prioritise growth areas of the economy

Paschal Donohoe:  the Minister intimated that the clash between two of the State’s most powerful public bodies was partly behind the reason to initiate an investigation. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

National Asset Management Agency rejects report’s critical conclusions on portfolio sale

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who  said in a radio interview earlier this week that  he “got his mojo back”, gets into a car after the Fine Gael think-in at Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph: Eamonn Farrell/

Once the budget passes, Taoiseach’s role is widely accepted to become an issue again

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior Fine Gael figures  at the Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare on  the second day of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Group of TDs and Ministers say leadership must be addressed after budget

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Meeting in Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Backbenchers want Enda Kenny to outline a timetable for his departure

Marion Coy: produced a substantial document on Fine Gael’s general election campaign but it will not be published in full until the party’s executive council is also briefed on its contents.

Party’s general election vision, empathy, communication and planning criticised

Some Fine Gael backbenchers, such as Carlow-Kilkenny’s Pat Deering and Kerry’s Brendan Griffin, have recently repeated their position that Taoiseach Enda Kenny must either go immediately or announce in the coming months that he intends to stand down. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Enda Kenny remarks at FG think-in seen as sign he does not intend to stand down soon

Fianna Fáil  and Sinn Féin say their legal advice is charges can be scrapped without breaking EU law

End of charges could expose Ireland to EU ‘compliance proceedings’, says party

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD arrives at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting in Keadeen Hotel, Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fine Gael’s electoral strategy lacked vision, empathy and planning, survey claims

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Next year, as I always do, I will consider the question of performance of the ministers and the ministers of state and take that into the context of the challenging are we have to deal with.   Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

FG leader says John Halligan must decide if he wants to stay in Government

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny ordered the report which will be discussed at party think-in. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

But decision not to publish the report, ordered by Enda Kenny, is criticised by TDs

Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation and Independent Alliance TD John Halligan called Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran an “idiot” in interview. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Independent Alliance source says Junior Minister’s interview was a ‘proper rant’

Water protests: The European Commission has warned that Ireland could face fines because of the decision to suspend water charges. Photograph: The Irish Times

Main Opposition party says water system should be funded through general taxation

 President Higgins at the 2016 Famine commemoration ceremony  at Glasnevin cemetary in  Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mid 19th century cross ‘will serve as a permanent memorial to and reminder of those people’

John Halligan TD at Leinster House: A number of   Independent TDs said they had been approached by members of the Independent Alliance recently with a view to joining the Government should Mr Halligan leave. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister of State warns he is under pressure locally over Waterford hospital

Mr Halligan has cancelled all ministerial appointments today to deal with the issue, with sources saying he is ready to leave Government if a second catherisation laboratory is not given to University Hospital, Waterford. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Independent Minister says he has ‘no choice’ but to resign if second catherisation lab not provided

John Halligan: described the review as a “formality” and was confident a second laboratory would be delivered

Halligan price to support Government? Laboratory for University Hospital Waterford

Stephen Donnelly declined to rule out the prospect of joining another political party in the future, including Fianna Fáil. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Former Social Democrat unwilling to be drawn on rancour or dialogue within party

Stephen Donnelly at his constituency office in Greystones, Wicklow. Most traces of Social Democrat signage were removed from the building earlier in the day. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Polished media performer unwilling to be drawn – but once linked to Fianna Fáil move

Stephen Donnelly at his constituency office in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Most traces of Social Democrats signage were removed from the building on Monday. The TD   will decide on his political future after consulting his supporters.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

TD rejects criticism from former Social Democrats colleagues after quitting party

A file image of Stephen Donnelly who has decided to leave the Social Democrats just over a year after the party was established. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Party says move ‘not a surprise’ and Donnelly had been disengaged for some time

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has said direct provision system needs to be improved. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Move from direct provision to ‘self-empowerment’ planned, says Minister

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s department has been without a secretary general, the most senior civil servant in a government department, since 2014. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Frances Fitzgerald’s department has been without a secretary general since 2014

The Government has been told it cannot ban a TD convicted of corruption from running  for election to the Dáil for a decade. File photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

AG rejects proposal to prohibit convicted politicians from standing for Dáil for 10 years

 Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald, pictured in her office. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Tánaiste speaks on her leadership ambitions and the need for FG to be more aggressive

The department’s tax strategy documents, published before the budget for the first time, show that new cash will have to be raised elsewhere, if the Government is to cut USC and at the same time meet these other commitments. File photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

Reduction in 5.5% rate may compromise other commitments in government programme

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney: the investment  is part of wider commitment to deliver social housing. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Minister Coveney says plan is to supply 1,500 houses through public-private partnerships

Brendan Howlin: “We do not believe that to serve in elected office renders us part of the elite or the establishment. Photograph: Eric Luke

Left-wing parties should not ‘run scared of governing’, leader to tell MacGill audience

Minister for Housing Simon Coveney at Dolphin’s Barn flats. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Houses for €250,000 to be built in strategic development zones such as Cherrywood

Simon Coveny at the launch of the Government’s housing action plan on Tuesday. Photograph Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Minister insists Government’s new housing plan will not overheat property market

There is a growing acceptance in the Government that an inquiry into Nama is inevitable given the seriousness of the allegations being advanced by Mick Wallace TD. Photograph: The Irish Times

Meeting set to take place over Independent TD’s call for Project Eagle investigation

Figures involved in preparing the action plan said the value of any package for first-time buyers must be about €10,000 to have tangible impact. Photographs: The Irish Times

Scheme to boost construction of more starter homes will be outlined in budget

The overall level of house building – both public and private – will rise to just over 25,000 units per year by 2021

Much depends on Simon Coveney and his ambitions hinge on delivery

The housing plan says that by the middle of next year, hotels will only be used as emergency accommodation in limited circumstances and support for homeless families with children will be increased.  Photograph: PA

€5.35 billion has been allocated to social housing by 2021; an increase of €2.2 billion

The plan will say all available State lands, on which imminent important infrastructural developments are not yet planned, should be put forward for housing where appropriate. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Strategy to tackle homes crisis includes allocation of further €2bn for social housing

It is understood a recommended increase in the minimum wage will be significantly lower than last year when it rose by 50 cent from €8.65 to €9.15

Terms of reference will also allow study of salary levels paid in private companies

A scheme to help first-time home buyers with tax relief and State top-ups of mortgage deposit savings is being examined by the Government. File photograph: Chris Ison/PA Wire

Government is considering tax relief and top-ups in effort to tackle housing crisis

The Fianna Fáil general election manifesto called for a first-time buyer’s scheme that would see the Government top up savings for a mortgage deposit by 25 per cent, up to a maximum of €5,000 per person

Micheál Martin calls for action ahead of budget to help younger people buy homes

 Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone: “Transport costs have been identified as a significant barrier to normal family life and a burden on parents and children alike.” Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Cost of transport was one issue when Minister Zappone consulted homeless families

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: ‘The national need comes first and we are clear that we don’t need further instability now in terms of the Government preparing itself for the negotiations on Brexit.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Fianna Fáil leader insists he will honour the deal supporting Fine Gael in Government

This picture taken on Friday shows the site where a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display on the Promenade des Anglais seafront near the Negresco Hotel in the French Riviera town of Nice. Photograph: Getty

Former commissioner having dinner when ‘screaming and roaring occurred all over the place’

A group of backbench TDs have maintained pressure on Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s leadership of Fine Gael, with some again calling for a timeframe for his departure. Photograph: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg.

Deputies seek timeframe for leadership change and criticise Reilly appointment

It is understood Taoiseach Enda Kenny will not outline a timetable for his departure as Fine Gael leader despite recent calls on him to do so from some members. Photograph: Bloomberg

Taoiseach to address Fine Gael TDs and Senators at Leinster House meeting

Taoiseach Enda Kenny.  File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Party’s Ministers believe the Taoiseach should be given time to pass a budget

Enda Kenny’s leadership of Fine Gael came under renewed pressure this week with a view emerging that he should be afforded the opportunity to stand aside of his own accord after October’s budget. Photograph: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

Party drew up contingency during government formation for possible snap election

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: it is understood he intends to lead Fine Gael for a full term in office but not into the next election. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Chief Whip calls on Enda Kenny to clarify his intentions over succession process

Regina Doherty: ‘It would be fair if the Taoiseach clarified this so we could get back to normal’. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Chief Whip says ‘decision on his future when he makes it will be completely his own’

Dr James Reilly: he had assumed that, having lost his Dáil seat, he would no longer be deputy leader.  Photograph: Alan Betson

It had been assumed post of deputy leader of Fine Gael would go to Frances Fitzgerald

Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell:  said the Taoiseach had made it clear he would not lead the party into the next general election. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

General sense Enda Kenny should resign or indicate intentions after October budget

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney: He has  publicly said the question of leadership will be discussed in the “not too distant future”, while some backbenchers explicitly said Enda Kenny must set out his intentions by year’s end. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach’s judgment being questioned by party TDs who no longer fear him

Dr James Reilly  said his job as deputy leader of Fine Gael  is best suited to someone who is not tied up in the day-to-day business of Government.  File photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Reilly reappointment as deputy leader sparks surprise in parliamentary party

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