Fine Gael opens its election campaign with economic plan
Party announces ‘rainy day’ fund for capital investment in case economy slows down
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Taoiseach Enda Kenny: €12 billion available over the lifetime of the next government, according to Noonan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Campaigning in the general election will begin today when Fine Gael launches its “long-term economic plan”. This will include the party’s proposed “rainy day” fund, which will be used in the later years of the next government for capital investment if the economy slows down, according to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.
He said the full details of the fund will be outlined by the party today. Fianna Fáil has called on him to clarify Fine Gael’s tax and spending plans.
Mr Noonan has said there will be €12 billion available over the lifetime of the next government and Fine Gael will split this so-called “fiscal space” between spending increases and tax cuts on a 70:30 ratio.
Fianna Fáil is expected to divide the available resources on a 60:40 ratio between spending increases and tax cuts, with Labour opting for a 75:25 split.
Mr Noonan said a quarter of resources available between 2017 and 2021 will be put into a contingency fund. He said yesterday this would come from the 70 per cent set aside for spending.
He was speaking at the first Fine Gael press conference of the election campaign in Dublin. Taoiseach Enda Kenny also spoke at the event, which was attended by Fine Gael Ministers and candidates.
Mr Kenny said he would not engage in economic jargon.
“I’m not going to get into economic jargon here because the vast majority of people don’t understand,” the Taoiseach said when asked about Fine Gael’s spending plans. “We’re talking here of monies that are not available now. ”
Mr Noonan said the contingency fund will likely be used from 2019 onwards if growth slows down and capital investment is needed to stimulate the economy.
€500m to spend in 2017
Department of Finance figures show the next government will only have €500 million to spend in 2017 when demographic pressures and the Lansdowne Road pay agreement are taken into account.
Fianna Fáil will also host an economic briefing today, and Tánaiste Joan Burton will launch Labour’s employment plans with Ged Nash, Minister of State for Business, in Drogheda, Co Louth, tomorrow. Full manifestos are not expected until next week.
Separately, Fine Gael sources also said Mr Kenny is likely to take part in a number of television debates, including those on TV3. Mr Kenny has previously declined to take part in TV3 debates hosted by the broadcaster Vincent Browne, who will not take part in coverage of this election because of health problems.
A Government statement said the the 32nd Dáil will meet on Thursday, March 10th, at 10.30am, which leaves two weeks to form a government after polling day.
Polling stations on February 26th will be open between 7am and 10pm and the latest date for receiving nominations is noon on February 11th.
“People eligible to vote but not yet registered as electors may apply for entry in the supplement to the register of electors to be published before polling day,” the statement said. The closing date for applications to be put on the postal or special voting list is tomorrow, Friday, February 5th.