Coalition plans pre-election roadshow on Budget 2016

Joint presentations will be held at a series of public meetings in towns around the State

The engagements will be coordinated by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, who presented the budget to the Dáil three weeks ago. Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

The engagements will be coordinated by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, who presented the budget to the Dáil three weeks ago. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Fine Gael and Labour are making plans for a joint roadshow on Budget 2016 in which they will hold a series of public meetings in towns around the State.

The decision to proceed with joint presentations is seen as a concerted drive to maintain the focus of political debate on the budget and economic matters in the run-up to the Christmas season.

Plans for the meetings come against the backdrop of renewed political attention on shortcomings in the health service and the housing crisis, problems which are likely to worsen as winter sets in.

The presentations are likely to focus on tax cuts in the 2016 plan and other budget measures cast to appeal to working parents, the elderly, carers, welfare recipients, farmers, publicans, tradespeople and retailers.

Political figures from the two parties are also likely to set out a path for the delivery of further tax cuts and new spending projects if the Coalition wins the general election early next year.

Town locations

Meetings in up to five towns are under discussion, it is understood. While locations are not yet finalised, towns in key constituencies are likely be chosen.

The engagements will be coordinated by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, who presented the budget to the Dáil three weeks ago.

The package was cast to maximise appeal throughout the community, so plans for the meetings reflect the view in the Government that the budget is a crucial asset to be deployed once the election begins.

The meetings are seen in Government circles as an opportunity to set out the rationale for individual measures and the prospect of further benefits.

“There’s always a challenge to communicate the content of any budget, given the large volume of material set out on the day itself,” a Government source said.

Preparations had been in train within Fine Gael to call the election shortly after the budget but Taoiseach Enda Kenny backed away from that plan.

The two Coalition parties hope the execution of the budget measures from January onwards will lead to a bounce in their support on election day a few weeks later.

Dáil business

Only a few weeks remain of regular Dáil business before the election, so the roadshow reflects concern to avoid the emergence of a political vacuum as parliamentary business winds down before the electorate goes to the polls.

The political push to “sell” the budget in coming weeks is therefore seen as a forerunner to the election campaign in which each Government party will concentrate on the economic recovery in their respective campaigns.