Green Party backs fiscal council’s lower spending limits

Council’s €3.2bn ‘fiscal space’ figure amounts to about quarter of that projected by Fine Gael

Harry McGee reports from the Green Party headquarters in Dublin as they launch their general election campaign. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

The Green Party has become the first political party to say it would stick to the limits set out by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council for spending over the next five years.

At the launch of the Greens election campaign in Dublin on Thursday morning party leader Eamon Ryan said he agreed with the far lower limits for extra spending set out by IFAC, which amounts to little more than a quarter of the figure projected by other parties.

Fine Gael has estimated the so-called five-year “fiscal space” as almost €12 billion.

The “fiscal space” is political shorthand for money the next government may have available for the purposes of tax cuts or spending increases.

The three other parties have estimated spending discretion that is lower but not by much.

However, they all stand in stark contrast to the IFAC which has estimated the room for manoeuvre could be as low as €3.2 billion.

It has said that the parties have not taken into account factors such as inflation, pay increases or increases in social welfare payments.

The big gulf between both figures has led to a political spat and has put Fine Gael on the back foot in the early stages of the campaign.

“We we are with the Fiscal Advisory Council,” Mr Ryan told a press conference this morning.

“Fine Gael is not taking into account pay rises and social welfare.

“Political parties cannot say they are not going to accommodate pay increases or social welfare increases. The IFAC has set out of a framework that is the prudent one to follow.”

Mr Ryan said the Greens would not lower the universal social charge until it was shown that the increase in revenue of corporation taxes was not cyclical but more permanent.

Mr Ryan, deputy leader Catherine Martin, and the party’s director of elections Ciarán Cuffe launched the campaign at its headquarters in Suffolk Street, Dublin, on Thursday.

Climate change

The party leader also criticised other parties for ignoring the issue of climate change which he said would be a central plank of its manifesto.

“I have not heard a work spoken in the airwaves on climate change as if nothing happened in Paris last December. It is the big economic issue of the day.

“We as a country can go green. We can change and develop a new clean economic model.”

He said Irish people realised they are “being sold a false promise” by the Government on this issue.

“This is a consensual and consensus-type party. We believe in consensus politics, not a bickering fighting politics.

“The environment is everything and we stand by it. It’s not separate, it’s [at the centre] of all we do.

“Our living systems are threatened by the current economic model and switching the sustainable model is better for us.”

Ms Martin said the party had a really good chance of winning a number of seats in the election.

Responding to The Irish Times opinion poll that showed the party’s support levels at 2 per cent, and the view of commentators that Mr Ryan presented its best prospect of winning a seat, Ms Martin said she had a really good chance of winning a seat in her constituency.

“What the polls underestimate is the work done on the ground,” she said, saying that she and other Green candidates had put in a huge amount of work.

Mr Cuffe said that the party would not engage in “auction politics” during the 23 days of the campaign.