Kenny warns on public sector pay cuts
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned that the Government may legislate to cut public sector pay if agreement on a proposed extension to the Croke Park deal cannot be reached.
Mr Kenny said he hoped pay savings of €1 billion could be agreed “by consent” where possible in the talks involving Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, trade unions and public service management.
However, when asked if pay cuts would feature in the event of failure to agree, he indicated the Coalition had other options.
“We’ve made it perfectly clear that Government has the right to legislate for changes that we need to achieve . . . Government of course reserves the right to legislate for reductions in pay if agreement can’t be reached.”
He said the ongoing talks would focus on overtime, premium payments and agency services. “Increments are worth about €200 million at the moment; of course, these are all part of the discussions that the Minister is conducting now.”
The savings were necessary to protect front-line services, he said in an RTÉ television interview yesterday with Seán O’Rourke on the new-look programme The Week in Politics.
Mr Kenny said he accepted the level of unemployment was much too high, including the levels of youth and long-term unemployment.
“You’ve not heard me speaking of green shoots or turning corners or that everything’s rosy in the garden,” he said.
People had greater clarity about the challenges they faced. “At least people now know that for 2013 we’ll pay half the rate of property tax, they know that water charges are coming down the track, they know that there’ll be no increases in income tax,” he said.
Mr Kenny said he did not accept the 0.18 per cent property tax was unfair. He said better-off people would pay more, and 92 per cent of houses were worth less than €300,000.
“This is an alternative to increasing income tax,” he said.
Promissory note deal
In the course of the wide-ranging interview, Mr Kenny said he hoped a deal on the promissory note could be struck before the March 31st deadline for payment of €3.1 billion. He said it had been made clear to the European Central Bank that Ireland did not want to pay that amount.
On abortion, Mr Kenny said he was “not in the business of liberalising any regime of abortion or introducing abortion on demand”. He said the Government would legislate “very strictly on the narrow line of what our Constitution means”.
The sections of the 1861 Act that criminalise abortion will be amended, he said. A person would not be able to “set themselves up as a psychiatrist who is in the business of referring people for abortion”, he said.
“It’s only in the case where abortion is the only treatment to save the life of the mother.”
On the ongoing controversy over horse meat found in beefburgers, Mr Kenny said he was not satisfied the issue was resolved. It was a matter of reputation for Ireland.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney would publish the “final evidence” as soon as he received it.