Martin urges Taoiseach to explain economic council role in Budget

'Very serious' if Burton felt not full participant on Cabinet decisions -FF leader

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called on the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to ’elaborate’ on the role of the Economic Management Council in budget decisions.  Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has called on the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to ’elaborate’ on the role of the Economic Management Council in budget decisions. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Tue, Jul 30, 2013, 14:13

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has called on the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to “elaborate” on the role of the Economic Management Council in budget decisions.

Mr Martin said it was a “very serious issue” if Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton felt she was not a full Cabinet participant on the Budget, given the size of her Department’s budget.

Membership of the council is confined to the four most senior members of Government. In an interview with The Irish Times this week Ms Burton suggested the council may be dominated by a narrow cohort of civil servants and special advisers and was not seeing the “big picture” of the Irish economy because of its exclusive nature.

Ms Burton had previously criticised the EMC for excluding Ministers from the “big-beast” spending departments – social protection, health, education and justice.

Mr Martin said he found it “incredible” that a Cabinet minister would make such remarks. Cabinet ministers live by a doctrine of collective responsibility, he said. “You are in the Cabinet or you are not. Clearly Joan Burton feels she is not a full participant in the decisions of the Cabinet on the Budget,” Mr Martin said.

“There has to be meaningful participation by cabinet ministers in the most strategic issues because that determines the direction of the Government,” he said

“Essentially Joan Burton is saying that four people are deciding the direction of the Government.….she said even more alarmingly that civil servants and advisers are having an undue influence in that decision-making process,” he said.

“Given that she (Ms Burton) has responsibility for €20bn I think that’s a very serious issue”, he said.

“I think the Taoiseach and Tánaiste should be asked do the agree with Joan Burton, is she correct in her analysis of how Budget decisions are now taken at Cabinet ..we need far more elaborate from the Taoiseach and Tánaiste on the role of the Economic Management Council and the role of Cabinet Ministers ” he said.

Mr Martin also said the Government was “strangling the parliament” which was “not independent of the executive”. He made the remarks as he dismissed a breakdown of costs of the Seanad published by Fine Gael.

“Cost isn’t the issue here. The fundamental issue here is the is we have a political system that is flawed,” he said.

The abolition of the Seanad was “coming into that context” he said.

It could “ halve parliamentary scrutiny of a Government that already controls the Oireachtas” and concentrate “ more power in the executive and not just the executive but four main ministers ,” he said.

“Our view is that you need more fundamental reform, not just of the Seanad.” he added.