Noonan says Opposition ‘nervous’ about budget

‘We actually have money to spend and under the rules we won’t be able to spend it all’

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said the Opposition is "nervous" about the upcoming budget.

Mr Noonan said there was “significant space” this year for tax reduction measures and increasing expenditure. However, he said under new rules the Government’s spending would be restricted.

“The Opposition are nervous. I spent a lot of time in my life in Opposition and you get increasingly more nervous as the election approaches, especially when you don’t know what the Government have in mind,” he said.

“So I understand the nervousness of the Opposition.”

Mr Noonan said the Spring Statement made clear the budget no longer depended on the amount of money that was available but on the amount the Government was allowed to spend under new rules.

“We’re in the position that I don’t think any Government was in before where we actually have money to spend and under the rules we won’t be able to spend it all.

“So we have to prioritise when it comes to spending. But the big job is to make the economy grow and then distribute the fruits of growth in a fair and socially just way.”

He said there could not be a “giveaway budget” because the amount of money the Government was allowed to spend under EU rules and domestic law was restricted. He said that was a good thing because it would prevent another crash.

“And I don’t think anyone who has experienced the last one wants to go through it again,” he added.

Mr Noonan was speaking during a break on the second day of the National Economic Dialogue at Dublin Castle on Friday.

The Government invited about 140 representatives from the business community, trade unions, agricultural sector and community and voluntary groups to set out their priorities for the budget for 2016 as part of the two-day event. Ends