Everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine appointment could be offered one by end of June, says Varadkar

Pandemic welfare supports could be prolonged into next year for hospitality, tourism, aviation and the arts, he said

  The HSE  vaccination centre in the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The HSE vaccination centre in the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccine appointment could be offered one by the end of June.

Mr Varadkar raised the prospect at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday evening, it is understood.

Sources said Mr Varadkar also told TDs and Senators that an announcement will be made at the end of this month about the future of the State’s pandemic welfare supports. Some supports could in fact be prolonged into next year for sectors like hospitality, tourism, aviation and the arts, he said.

It is understood he told members that while nothing has been decided, the financial supports will not be removed from July 1st or anywhere around that time.

While an initial boom could be expected with the economy re-opening, this could fall away and the Government does not want to withdraw supports while the economy is still recovering and many people are still not back at work, he said.

Multiple sources also said that the Tánaiste effectively ruled out any hikes to income tax over the coming years after the IMF said a gradual increase in tax revenue should be considered after next year, once a recovery from Covid-19 has taken hold.

While carbon taxes would rise and the local property tax would be revised, he told the parliamentary party that the Government should not “concede” to increases to income taxes.

There was also a conversation about the housing crisis, an issue which is back on the political centre-stage.

Sources at the meeting said Mr Varadkar referenced a “narrative” in recent days of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael blaming each other for issues in housing, and he said: “I don’t think we should be in such a space.”

He is understood to have told the meeting that family homelessness is down 40 per cent from the peak but that many people were not aware of this. Sources said however Mr Varadkar said enough is not being done and that in terms of home ownership the problem is worsening.

He is understood to have described it as a “breach of the social contract”, sources said, saying it is not surprising that parties like Fine Gael are not doing as well in the polls given this fact.

Mr Varadkar also referenced a “Waterford Whispers” satire article which mocked Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil for “only discovering that there is a housing crisis last week”. “He said he did not want this to be something that people perceived as being true,” a source at the meeting said.

The meeting also heard fresh comments on the growing row over the development of a €140 million cheese plant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said An Taisce should not appeal a High Court decision backing the development of the plant, prompting members of the Green Party to come out in support of the heritage organisation.

The High Court’s recent decision in favour of the Belview plant in south Co Kilkenny, should see the joint venture between Glanbia and Dutch cheesemakers Royal A-Ware proceed. However An Taisce, which has made several environmental objections to the plan, is set to appeal.

At the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan said public representatives are entitled to express their views and said it was nothing compared to a coalition TD taking his own Government to the High Court. Sources said he was referring to Green Party TD Patrick Costello’s case on the Ceta trade agreement.

Mr Varadkar said the party was “fully behind” projects in the South East.

Senator Tim Lombard said it was important that Fine Gael “came out in front” on the issue and said the party needed to be strong on the matter.