Electorate’s choice is stability or chaos, says Kenny

Martin claims budget designed not to shape future but to get two parties through election

As the end of the Dáil term approaches, the electorate will have to decide between stability and chaos, according to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He said, “We are facing a fork in the road. One track points to continued stability and certainty about the future.” But he added that “as we face this division in the road, one surely can see that along the other track lies instability and chaos. The siren songs of ending austerity and fairer recovery will, in fact, mean the exact opposite.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton described the budget as “a carefully designed, responsible, interlocking budget”. She said that “if re-elected to government, the Labour Party will work to phase out the universal social charge for all low- and middle-income earners”. She accused Sinn Féin of wanting to keep the emergency tax even though the emergency was over, because their own figures did not add up.

But Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Budget 2016 was a progression of the Government’s “socially delinquent approach, this time motivated by electoral considerations rather than done under the cover of the troika”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin described the budget as “the last throw of the dice by a deeply unpopular Government desperate to be re-elected. It is not a budget to shape Ireland’s future but one to help two parties get through an election campaign.”

Independent Waterford TD John Halligan said the "poor attempt to buy back votes with scraps was a further insult to the intelligence of very many people".

Independent Kerry South TD Tom Fleming called on the Government to "send the right message to the youth of the country by reinstating the social welfare rate that was payable previously".

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney pointed to the recognition of the agrifood sector reflected in a budget of €1.351 billion in 2016, €1.134 billion in current expenditure and €217 million in capital expenditure. As Minister for Defence, Mr Coveney said the defence budget had increased by €6 million to €904 million and he reiterated his commitment to keep Defence Forces numbers at 9,500.

Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan said her priority for additional investment had been to see smaller classes introduced at primary level. Budget 2016 will reduce class size back “to the smallest class size we have ever had”.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said that while there had been an increase in his budget, "I do not underestimate the challenges involved in the delivery of a safe, efficient health service".

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times