New Dáil budget committee urged to ‘get to work now’

No ‘hope in hell’ of having structure in place in time for next budgetary process - Barrett

Fine Gael TD  John Paul Phelan was elected chairman of the new budgetary committee. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan was elected chairman of the new budgetary committee. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Deputies on a new Dáil budgetary committee have been urged to “get to work now” if they are to play a part in the budgetary process now getting under way and which will culminate in mid-October.

However, deputies were also told the new Oireachtas budget office - which will assist parties in the process of drawing up their budget proposals - is unlikely to be set up until next February.

This morning saw the first meeting at Leinster House of the committee on the arrangements for budgetary scrutiny, which is tasked with setting out how the new Oireachtas-dominated budget process will work.

The preliminary committee must report to the Ceann Comhairle by the end of June with a report which is to serve as a “blueprint” for how the new budget committee will operate, and what input it will have to the eventual budget decisions.

The preliminary committee will then be replaced by a permanent committee, whose membership is likely to mirror the existing committee.

Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan was elected chairman of the committee unopposed. He said it was “the first step in the new politics”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the new committee needed to get involved in this year’s budgetary process, and needed to “learn by doing”.

“We need to get into the work now rather than plan what we might do next year,” Mr Ryan said.

However, other TDs said that the committee needed to stick to its remit and produce a report on how the new process will work.

Former Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett said that there wasn’t “a hope in hell” of having a structure in place in time for this year’s budget process.

Labour TD Joan Burton said that the committee should seek access to the requests for next year’s budget which were already being drawn up in government departments. She said that budgets needed to be “gender-proofed” and also proofed for their impact on older people.

Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin said the committee should have a role in equality proofing the next budget, while People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett said the budget must not be just equality proofed, but “poverty-proofed”.

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said that the EU’s fiscal rules “needed to be challenged” at the committee.

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said the “new politics” was a challenge to the “permanent government”.

The new committee would need to engage with the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure, and neither was known as “care-y share-y types.”

“We need to find out if the permanent government will have a problem with this committee,” Mr Calleary said.