Details of budget to be finalised by Cabinet this evening
Minister for Health describes reports of €400m overrun as ‘wild speculation’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny arriving for the Cabinet meeting on the budget at Government Buildings this evening. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Most of the budget details are expected to be finalised at this evening’s Cabinet meeting, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.
“We have another Cabinet meeting on Tuesday which will obviously finalise matters,’’ he added.
The Tanaiste was speaking in Government Buildings this afternoon as Ministers arrived for the Cabinet meeting.
Asked if the required savings in the Department of Health would be finalised, he said a lot of work had been done over the weekend and today. He added that “we will have to wait and see where we are this evening’’.
Mr Gilmore said it was sometimes when “you get to the very end of the process, that some of the more difficult issues have to be resolved.’’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has refused to be drawn on whether a supplementary budget will be needed later in the year to make up a funding shortfall in the Department of Health.
He said the ceiling on health spending would be discussed at this evening’s Cabinet meeting in Dublin on the budget.
“You have two and a half months to go yet in terms of the running of the health services,’’ he added. “I cannot predict what that spend will be.’’
Mr Kenny said the profile of health spending was within €1 million of where it should be at the end of last month. It was quite extraordinary he said, that Minister for Health Dr James Reilly had been able to streamline the health services to the point where it had lost substantial numbers of people and reduced spending, and still manage to retain frontline services.
“Clearly, it is demand-led,’’ he added. “You do not know what is going to happen in terms of health issues.’’
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Dr Reilly described today’s media reports of a possible €400 million overrun in the health budget as “wild speculation”.
“It won’t be remotely anything like that,” he said, adding that the figure was likely to be under €200 million.
On the issue of free GP care for the under-fives, Dr Reilly said he was “not ruling it out” but that “tough decisions have to be made in this budget”.
He said he has always been a strong supporter of the proposal but had “always qualified it by saying it would be a cabinet decision”.
Speaking today on RTÉ’s Week In Politics programme, Mr Kenny said decisions would be made later this evening on the content of the budget to be introduced by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan on Tuesday.
Asked whether the budgetary savings of €2.5 billion, rather than €3.1 billion, was a victory for the Labour Party, Mr Kenny said the Government was made up of two parties.
“This is not a victory for any one party or another,’’ he added. “It is about our country.’’