Paschal Donohoe: ‘Ireland on path to just and fair society’

Minister for Public Expenditure says there will be €1.2bn for Housing Action Plan

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe confirmed a €120m rise in childcare funding to €465m next year

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe confirmed a €120m rise in childcare funding to €465m next year

 

Ireland is back on the path to having a dynamic economy and being a just and fair society, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has told the Dáil.

He announced €58 billion in spending, in what he called a staging post in the first of at least three budgets. The spending represents an increase of €1.9 billion, or 3.3 per cent, on total spending for 2016.

In his first budget speech as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Donohoe defended the arrangement with Fianna Fáil and the Independents.

“Those of us in the middle ground of politics have a duty to show that co-operation and consensus can work, to show that our tone can be moderate, but still convincing,” he said.

“To show that things won’t just fall apart and the centre can hold – and stay firm.”

Criticising some on the Opposition benches, he said they “claim that the very act of governing, of making choices, is a desire to create a society where some gain and some lose. As opposed to what it truly is, which is an attempt to create a better collective future for us all.”

Mr Donohoe said that “thanks to the sacrifices of the Irish people, we are back on the pathway to a dynamic economy and a just and fair society”.

Current spending in the budget represented an increase of almost €4 billion since 2014, he said.

The €58 billion in spending in Budget 2017 comprises€53.5 billion in day-to-day expenditure and €4.5 billion in capital spending.

Garda and defence

In an unflagged increase, the Minister announced a rise of €16 million for the Department of Defence.

As part of plans to increase Garda numbers to 15,000, the Minister said there would be €28 million extra for An Garda Síochána as part of a total package of €68 million for the force. As part of this there will be 800 new gardaí for 2017.

In a package worth €301 million, Mr Donohoe announced that all weekly social welfare payments would increase by €5 including the pension, carer’s and disability allowance and jobseeker’s benefit.

Following intense discussions about childcare, Mr Donohoe confirmed a 35 per cent, or €120 million, increase in childcare funding from €345 million this year to €465 million next year.

It includes the new Single Affordable Childcare Scheme, operable from September 2017, which will provide means-tested subsidies based on parental income for children between six months and 15 years.

Homeless support

The allocation for emergency accommodation for homeless people will increase by €28 million to €100 million.

Mr Donohoe said there would be €1.2 billion in funding for housing which, he said, would contribute to the implementation of the Housing Action Plan, which aims to build 47,000 new social housing homes by 2021.

Capital funding for housing includes €50 million for the Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund, which will prepare public lands for private housing in urban areas.

A further €105 million would go to the Housing Assistance Payment Scheme (Haps), up from the €48 million in 2016.

Mr Donohoe announced a capital funding increase of €50 million, which will go towards measures including the Renewable Heat Incentive, the Better Energy Homes grants and the electric vehicles subsidy.

Speaking of the challenges of Brexit, Mr Donohoe said the Government was supporting industry with measures including a €199 million increase for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.