Varadkar to oppose ‘massive’ rise in PRSI for self-employed

Fine Gael leader to line out against proposal designed to offset delay in pension changes

Tánaiste  Leo Varadkar will address a Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in next week. Photograph:  Maxwells

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar will address a Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in next week. Photograph: Maxwells

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is set to oppose what Fine Gael sources called a “massive” proposed PRSI hike for the self-employed, designed to help pay for delays to raising the age for the State pension.

The Pensions Commission appointed by the Government is set to advise that there be no rise to the State pension age for seven years. The commission will recommend that it begin to rise in quarterly increments to 67 from 2028 onwards.

However, self-employed people would bear the immediate brunt of measures to balance out the financial impact of the delay, with reported increases to PRSI contributions from 4 per cent to 11 per cent, under proposals from the commission.

Mr Varadkar is set to line out against the proposal next week, however, at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in. A Fine Gael source said he would “oppose the massive proposed PRSI hike for the self-employed, which would go directly against Government policy to support the self-employed”.

A move seen to damage the self-employed would risk alienating what Fine Gael sees as a core part of its vote. Mr Varadkar will also call for an increase in a welfare and pensions package in the next budget to take account of the return of inflation.

Fine Gael sources said there had not been an increase in the pension for several years, while inflation has returned and the party argues Ireland has among the highest income tax rates in the OECD.

Mr Varadkar will also call for pandemic-linked wage subsidies to be extended into next year for sectors that are still dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including the hospitality and aviation industries. The Tánaiste will endorse the Government’s Housing for All plan and will say the focus should be on delivery and implementation, and criticise Opposition parties for what he will say is a “two-faced” approach to housing where it is supported as a right but opposed in practice.

It comes as two weekend opinion polls show that Sinn Féin command the largest share of support among voters. For the first time in its history, the Business Post/Red C poll had Sinn Féin (29 per cent) ahead of Fine Gael (28 per cent). Fianna Fáil is steady in the poll on 13 per cent.

The Government is facing a motion of no-confidence next week in the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney over his handling of the appointment of Katherine Zappone as a special envoy to the UN. A Behaviour & Attitudes poll for the Sunday Times found Mr Varadkar’s approval rating slipped nine points to 39 per cent, with Fine Gael down two points to 23 per cent. Support for Sinn Féin was up three points giving it a 10-point lead on Fine Gael, on 33 per cent.