A Fine Gael TD has described a proposal being considered by his own Government to give a €500 bonus to front-line workers as “mad” and “crazy” and has called for the idea to be scrapped.
Wexford TD Paul Kehoe told Fine Gael colleagues at its weekly parliamentary part meeting on Wednesday night that he is totally opposed to the bonus.
Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government was considering such a bonus for those who worked in people-facing jobs during the pandemic, but said the matter was “very challenging” because of all the groups who might be considered eligible.
Fine Gael parliamentary party members who logged into the virtual meeting said Mr Kehoe launched a broadside against the bonus on the basis it was unfair and arbitrary. He said that it would set public sector workers against private sector workers, telling colleagues that shopworkers, bus drivers and delivery drivers were as entitled to the bonus as those working in the health service.
Mr Kehoe, a former minister for defence and government chief whip, also argued against the bonus on grounds of cost. He is said to have told colleagues that given the huge amounts of money that had been spent in order to shore up the economy during the lockdown, paying out hundreds of millions of euro in a Covid bonus would make no sense when there were so many other demands on public finances.
Separately, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told his party’s TDs and Senators that a priority for Fine Gael would be to protect middle income earners from inflation and the rising cost of living ahead of the forthcoming Budget. He said indexing tax credits and tax bands could help achieve this.
Mr Varadkar told the meeting, chaired by Richard Bruton, that he was reasonably confident power outages would not occur this sinter and a plan was being worked on for this.
Regarding the National Development Plan (NDP), Mr Varadkar said he hoped this would be signed off by Government next week. He said the (NDP) builds on Project Ireland 2040 which in the last four years involved numerous projects including 526 school works/extensions, 48,000 new school places, four major hospital extensions, four new motorway projects, and the National Broadband Plan connecting homes and farms.
Donegal TD Joe McHugh told colleagues that a quick resolution was needed for homeowners in his constituencies whose houses had been extensively damaged by defective blocks, in which Mica was a component. He said the Government needed to come to a decision as quickly as possible.