Coveney unhappy to be out of budget loop
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said yesterday he was unhappy that Cabinet members were not more involved in preparing the budget, which was largely decided by the Economic Management Council.
The council comprises Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin. It meets at least once a week to co-ordinate economic policy and deal with implementation of the EU-IMF bailout programme.
Asked if he was happy with the nature of EMC pre-budget discussions, Mr Coveney said: “No is the honest answer to that, but I understand why it was necessary.
“I don’t like the fact that I wasn’t more involved in the build-up to some of the decisions although all of the final decisions were made collectively by the full Cabinet and it’s important that I would say that, so I stand over all of the decisions.
“But I would like to have been involved as I think would other Cabinet members in the reasoning and debate around coming to some of those decisions at an earlier stage.”
Labour Party chairman Colm Keaveney, who voted against the most contentious budget measures on Thursday, accused the EMC of having “sprung an odious budget” on new Government TDs.
Mr Coveney stressed he understood why the budgetary discussions were kept so tight this year. The build-up to last year’s “classic first budget” was “not good”, with a lot of leaks and some inexperience shown, he said.
Best possible deal
“Everybody was trying to get the best possible deal they could for their sector, and I don’t blame them for that, but as a result a lot of the debate played out in public and newspapers and that isn’t the way Government should work.
“So we all said after that budget: ‘Look, let’s learn from our mistakes here’.”
He said one of the changes agreed was that the EMC would be tasked with trying to deal with some of the areas where there was a difference of opinion between the Coalition partners.
Mr Coveney said there was robust debate between Ministers but relationships at Cabinet were very good. He also said Mr Noonan had been “anxious to have real news to announce on budget day”.
Some Ministers not in the inner circle of the EMC have previously privately expressed fears that the influential body has eroded some of the Cabinet’s traditional power, although it has been robustly defended by Mr Noonan.