Government backbenchers react to budget with cautious welcome but some concern

Coalition TDs ponder impact of aspects of tax and spending plan on different sectors of society

Government backbenchers have given a cautious welcome to the budget, but are concerned that cost of living pressures are already “out of control” and may outstrip the Coalition’s efforts to counteract them.

Donegal Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said the tax and spending package was a "good attempt to tackle the cost of living, however many prices have already spiralled out of control".

Limerick deputy Willie O’Dea, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on social protection, said he was disappointed by the absence of a €10 increase to the pension rate, which went up by €5. “A €5 increase isn’t going to compensate people for price rises,” he said, adding that he was “very worried” that a lot of people on social welfare will not qualify for the fuel allowance.

“I don’t think the increases will be sufficient to compensate people for price rises or increases in energy prices,” he said.


Neasa Hourigan, the Green Party finance spokeswoman said she was happy with many aspects - especially the women's healthcare funding package, disability funding and funding for Healthy Ireland.

She said she would have liked to see the Zoned Land Tax introduced “tomorrow”, but accepted local authorities might not be ready to implement it yet. She said she had “some concerns about the housing section [but] I think overall we will have focused most of the budget on those who are in lower income groups, protecting people from climate change and increasing access to, and the quality of, core services.”

Fine Gael backbencher John Paul Phelan, Carlow-Kilkenny, said he was "pleasantly surprised" with the budget, and that it had a "nice tax cut for middle earners" and "very worthwhile and fair changes for carers".

Alan Farrell, Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal, defended measures to increase housing supply, arguing it would ameliorate the situation for renters, despite the absence of renter-specific measures in the budget.

“[There are] a whole range of services or ideas there that are targeting the housing market in an effort to drive down rent,” he said. “If you were to meddle, to interfere in the property market, you create an opportunity for it to be exploited by the very people you don’t want to exploit it, like a landlord,” he argued, saying tax credits could eventually lead to rent hikes.

“We’re not going to be able to answer all the questions nor satisfy all the sectors in society,” he said. Against the backdrop of growing inflation, he said: “The only thing we can do is be as prudent as we possibly can, not overinflate the economy”.

Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary said "overall it's okay" but that he was concerned about the impact of price rises on people's incomes. "Government will have to be extra vigilant on this," he said.

He welcomed investments in health, housing and education and childcare but warned: “They have to make a difference to people’s daily lives. No good announcing billions of euro if you’re still on a waiting list for a house, for surgery or for a school or childcare pace.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times