Fianna Fáil calls on watchdog to investigate big projects

Fine Gael accused of dishonesty over spending on big projects

The issue of Government spending has been one of main the topics of the local and European elections, with TDs from all parties reporting voter concern about projects such as the national children’s hospital and the National Broadband Plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The issue of Government spending has been one of main the topics of the local and European elections, with TDs from all parties reporting voter concern about projects such as the national children’s hospital and the National Broadband Plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Fianna Fáil has called on the State’s fiscal watchdog to carry out an official examination of the Government’s budgetary figures because it claims Fine Gael is not being honest about the effect of large projects on existing policy.

The issue of Government spending has been one of main the topics of the local and European elections, with TDs from all parties reporting voter concern about projects such as the national children’s hospital and the National Broadband Plan.

Michael McGrath, the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman, has called on the Fiscal Advisory Council to assess the Government’s projections in light of these issues, as well as an extra €1.5 billion he claims will need to be found for the National Development Plan.

Mr McGrath will have to sign off on a budget underpinned by such figures later this year if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are to agree another tax and spending package under the confidence-and-supply deal.

General election

The arrangement was extended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to take in one more budget before the next general election.

“I am calling on the Fiscal Advisory Council to provide an assessment of the Government’s medium-term fiscal projections,” Mr McGrath said. “Unless Fine Gael is going to cut spending or increase taxes, their figures just don’t add up.”

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The Cork South Central TD said there has been “no indication” from Fine Gael that it intends to change its approach on foot of overspending on the national children’s hospital and the €3 billion cost to the State of the National Broadband Plan.

Mr McGrath’s call is likely to unsettle some within Fine Gael who acknowledge the party’s reputation for financial management has taken a hit and may cause alarm that Fianna Fáil is positioning itself as the more responsible party.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin also accused Fine Gael of “failing to safeguard the public’s money”, adding it is in danger of “repeating all of the mistakes of Fianna Fáil in government”.

Summer economic statement

In response, a spokeswoman for Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he would publish the summer economic statement in the coming weeks. This would outline the “overall economic and budgetary strategy” and establish “the fiscal parameters for the upcoming budget”.

“The aim of this will be to continue to provide for our people’s needs and ensure that the economy grows sustainably while positioning Ireland so that we remain resilient and well equipped to avail of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the coming years,” the spokeswoman said.

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock accused Fianna Fáil of having a “neck that has proven to be far more resilient than the state of our nation’s finances under their governments”.

Campaigning for the local and European elections is entering its final period ahead of polling day on Friday.

A number of polls have shown an increase in support for the Green Party, and party leader Eamon Ryan said the findings are “consistent with what we are sensing”.

“Green issues are centre stage in the public mind at the moment, rightly, but also we have a really big campaign going,” said Mr Ryan. “We have to turn that into number one votes next Friday. But if we can do that, we have a chance to send a really clear message that Ireland wants to go green.”