Fianna Fáil TDs to demand ‘extraordinary’ budget package

Taoiseach and Minister for Public Expenditure to come under renewed pressure at party meeting

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is coming under pressure from Government TDs to increase welfare payments by up to €20 ahead of a crunch meeting tomorrow on the cost of living crisis.

Fianna Fáil members will hold a special party meeting on Friday morning where politicians will demand significant welfare increases, wider tax bands and help with back-to-school costs, among other measures.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, senior Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said “the crisis calls for what can only be described as extraordinary interventions considering comparisons with previous packages”.

Clare TD Cathal Crowe said he would consider welfare increases of between €15-€20 to be fair as he also called for improved childcare supports and enhanced mileage and subsistence payments for frontline healthcare workers. Another TD agreed privately that increases need to be “a double-digit figure given the rise in inflation”.

A senior party source said advocacy group Age Action had made a pre-budget submission stating that a €23 increase would be needed in the pension rate to keep up with the soaring cost of living and that TDs were coming under pressure to argue for increases as high as this.

Mr Cowen said, however, that while “taxation revenues are buoyant enough, Government borrowing rates are ever-increasing, so any social welfare package of such a magnitude must be allied to a fair and appropriate taxation package, rewarding work [and] thus ensuring tax take can meet costs of targeted interventions for households and various sectors that need generous interventions”.

Another party source said there will be widespread calls at the meeting for a widening of tax bands.

Dublin South-West TD John Lahart said he would be seeking to ensure that struggling families see an increase in the back-to-school allowance and that the scheme is expanded significantly.

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It comes as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the country could be grappling with the cost-of-living crisis for years. Mr Varadkar said the global inflation crisis would not end “because of any budget, whether it’s an emergency budget before the autumn or whether it’s one in the autumn”. The Tánaiste also said the cost of living crisis was rising “very fast” in the Republic and worldwide. Governments were “doing their best to deal with that”, he said.

“There’s only so much that any government can do,” he added.

He was speaking after The Irish Times reported on Thursday that the forthcoming budget could be brought forward by up to a month as the Government faces significant pressure from the Opposition about inflation costs.

Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan said on Thursday morning he “would not object” to a September budget . There is growing momentum for an earlier package within all three Coalition parties and one of the obstacles the Government is trying to clear is how to navigate bringing forward a package without knowing what the tax take is for September.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has said that households earning up to €80,000 should be entitled to claim the back-to-education allowance. The party wants to extend the benefit to an additional 500,000 children.

Sinn Féin education spokesman Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he wants to see the allowance increase by 50 per cent, from €160 to €240 for primary school children, and from €285 to €427.50 for secondary school pupils.

“This is likely to be even more of a crisis this year. Very often back-to-school expenses can cost well in excess of €1,000 a child and much more than that if you have two or three children going through the school system,” added Mr Ó Laoghaire.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times