Quinn favours budget adjustment of less than €3.1bn

‘Difficult political choice’ facing Cabinet in coming weeks

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the Cabinet had already had preliminary discussions on the upcoming 
B
Budget.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said the Cabinet had already had preliminary discussions on the upcoming B Budget.

 

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said he favours a reduction in October’s Budget of less than the €3.1 billion advocated by the EU-IMF Troika.

Mr Quinn would not specify the exact adjustment figure he and his Ministerial colleagues in Labour will seek during Cabinet discussions with Fine Gael over the next month, nor confirm that the junior Coalition partner is seeking a figure as low as €2.5 billion.

“The figure has to be less than the €3.1 billion that has been articulated,” said Mr Quinn. I’m not going to pre-empt or presume what the final figure will be,” he told RTÉ’s This Week programme, adding that the final decision would be one for Cabinet later this month.

“It is a very difficult political choice and the Cabinet is the place that this will be sorted out,” he said.

Mr Quinn confirmed the Cabinet had discussed the Budget at its first meeting after the summer break on Thursday.

“We had a very preliminary discussion on the overall Budget situation,” he said. “We will be discussing that in considerable details in the next few weeks.”

Asked about the €100 million in cuts that is expected to be taken from his Department’s budget, Mr Quinn said that it was a lot more difficult to estimate the final figure that will be expected because of the earlier Budget.

He said that with the start of the academic year in September, there was a “mismatch” in terms of timing which made it difficult to have full clarity on figures.

He instanced lump sums and pensions being paid to retiring teachers as well as it being unknown at this stage how many claims will be paid out next year under the redress scheme for State residential institutions, which falls under his Department’s responsibilities.

As well as an €44 million earmarked for general adjustments, €20 million in savings must be found to fund the Government’s reverse on cuts in resource teaching. In addition, a provision of €40 million has been made to pay settlements under the redress scheme.

Mr Quinn told the programme that the 17 religious institutions were some “€200 million shy” of the amount of money they had promised to pay into the scheme. He said he wanted the orders to pay 50 per cent of the overall payout, which now stands at €1.4 billion. But asked about comments that efforts to achieve that end were going nowhere, he insisted he would continue in his efforts.

The Labour Party Minister strongly defended the role of the four-person Economic Management Council (EMC), which has been criticised for being a ‘cabinet within a cabinet’.

“[Cabinet members] all engage in the discussion but let us be very clear. The EMC is absolutely essential given the fact we are dealing in a programme administered by the Troika. The room for manoeuvre is very limited. This is what we inherited when the country lost its economic sovereignty.

“They, who have have the primary task of regaining sovereignty, would not be able to function if it was bigger than the four people there at the moment,” he said.

He firmly ruled out any possibility of student loans or a graduate tax at third level saying that both seemed simple solution but were far more problematic in practice.

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