Varadkar lambasts FF for promising extra spending
Taoiseach says party will ‘bankrupt the country, as they have done in the past’
Fianna Fáil spokesperson on finance Michael McGrath: “We are the party of fiscal responsibility,” he said. Photograph: Alan Betson
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Fine Gael would have to “expose Fianna Fáil for what they are”, telling his TDs that the main Opposition party would “bankrupt the country, as they have done in the past”.
After sharp exchanges between Mr Varadkar and the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, in the Dáil on Wednesday, the Fine Gael leader returned to the attack in an attempt to rally his TDs at Wednesday night’s parliamentary party meeting in Leinster House.
Sources present at the meeting said Mr Varadkar “let rip” at Fianna Fáil, saying that the party had changed tack since its reshuffle, and was now intent on promising extra spending and resources to anyone who wanted them.
He told his TDs that Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne had made promises which would cost €250 million in recent weeks.
The Government was criticised in a series of recent Private Members’ motions for its failure to allocate sufficient resources to a number of areas of the public service. On Wednesday night, a Sinn Féin motion calling for more resources, better working conditions and pay rises was supported by many Fianna Fáil deputies.
In response to Mr Varadkar’s remarks, the Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said his party had “proved our credentials – we have agreed two budgets under the agreement and we are committed to a third”.
“We are the party of fiscal responsibility,” he said. “We’ve secured Government agreement for a rainy day fund and that will become a reality in 2019.
“This is political mudslinging and you’d have to question what his motives are.”
Mr Varadkar’s attack on Fianna Fáil comes after he clashed with the Fianna Fáil leader in the Dáil on Wednesday, when the Taoiseach accused Mr Martin’s party of dishonesty: “when people go around the country promising every interest group they will do everything they ask this year. That is not possible . . . That is what Deputy Micheál Martin’s party is doing.
“As is always the case, the truth hurts. That is what Deputy Micheál Martin’s party is doing and I am keeping a record of all the promises his spokespersons are making as the weeks go by. Hundreds of millions in extra spending are being promised every week for every interest group and it is all being promised now. That is exactly the kind of philosophy that landed this country in the hole out of which we had to take it a number of years ago,” he said.
Mr Martin responded that the Taoiseach was “completely out of touch”.
‘That argument won’t win’
Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath said on Thursday he had no problem with the cut and thrust of politics, but he would vigorously defend the party’s position on spending.
He said he rejected the claim by Mr Varadkar that Fianna Fáil is trying to buy the next election with promises.
“That argument won’t win,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, especially given that Fine Gael had made the “€4 billion biggest election promise ever” over USC.
“We will vigorously and robustly defend ourselves.”
Mr McGrath said Fianna Fáil’s commitment to the confidence and supply agreement with the Government. “This is a priority for us, we make no apology for that.”
All of the party’s commitments to education, health and housing were all underpinned by fiscal rectitude and responsibility, he said.
“Everything we’re raising is within budgetary parameters.”