Enda Kenny promises reform of budget process

Fine Gael leader proposes more Opposition input amid talks for government

Independent TDs  Noel Grealish, Denis Naughten, Mattie McGrath, Michael Harty, Michael Collins arrive for a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Independent TDs Noel Grealish, Denis Naughten, Mattie McGrath, Michael Harty, Michael Collins arrive for a meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Opposition TDs will be given a much greater say in how the budget is framed through a strengthened system of Dáil committees, under plans proposed by Fine Gael.

Acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Independent rural TDs who have started discussions with Fine Gael on a programme for government that future budgets will be drafted with much more Opposition input.

Mr Kenny met Noel Grealish, Denis Naughten, Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins and Michael Harty in Government Buildings yesterday and will chair a round-table discussion with 17 TDs today.

The rural Independent group also met Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin last night.

Mr Martin contacted a number of other non-party TDs yesterday, with one claiming the Fianna Fáil leader had been “stung” by suggestions his party was not as serious as Fine Gael about forming a government.

Party discussions

Simon CoveneyLeo VaradkarFrances FitzgeraldRichard BrutonSimon Harris

The meeting will outline policy areas for discussion and initially focus on housing and rural Ireland, it is understood.

Others taking part include the Independent Alliance, the Green Party, Katherine Zappone, Maureen O’Sullivan and Kerry TDs Michael and Danny Healy-Rae.

Mr Kenny yesterday told the group of five Independent rural TDs he wanted a partnership government and the Opposition would be given greater input into policy-making through strengthened committees.

A number of those present said Mr Kenny outlined changes to how the Budget would be drafted, which would see much greater debate before Budget day about how a set allocation of money could be spent.

While some took this to mean Budgets would be agreed by committee before being sent to the Dáil, a Fine Gael source said the Taoiseach had only outlined the notion of early discussions by a budgetary committee.

The source, however, did not rule out a vote at committee level, saying matters had to be discussed further.

Such a process would introduce another element to the Budget process and reduce the impact of the traditional set piece-Budget being announced in the Dáil by the minister for finance. Budgetary plans One Independent TD said it would force groups such as Sinn Féin and left wing deputies to “put up or shut up” when it came to outlining their budgetary plans.

Mr Kenny was pressed at the meeting on when he will reach out to the Fianna Fáil leader for support for a minority Fine Gael-led administration.

Fine Gael says it is adopting a twin-track, or two-strand, approach to government formation.

The first element is gathering enough support for a credible Fine Gael-led minority coalition, with sources suggesting a seat total from the mid-60s upwards, based on an agreed programme for government.

The second element would involve reaching out to Fianna Fáil and others to see if they would provide support from the Opposition benches for the programme, or elements of it, and on what conditions.

Fianna Fáil will not be contacted by Fine Gael until a credible minority coalition is assembled, sources said.

The Independent Alliance, which comprises Shane Ross, Michael Fitzmaurice, John Halligan, Seán Canney, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Finian McGrath will also take part in the Fine Gael round table meeting today.