Taoiseach does not envisage ‘mini-budget’ in January

Micheál Martin says energy windfall revenues would ‘not necessarily’ be redistributed in further cost-of-living measures

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he does not envisage a mini-budget in January.

Speaking to reporters at the Fianna Fáil Árdfheis at the RDS in Dublin, Mr Martin said: “We don’t see a mini-budget in January.”

However, he left the door open for further cost-of-living measures, indicating that the Government would keep track of developments impacting the country with further adverse events possible. “We will keep everything under review in terms of the wider international situation, the war in Europe, if it deteriorates, if other events happen.”

“We’re very conscious of potential difficulties and we’ve seen how things can go wrong quickly, so we’re taking nothing for granted in that respect.”

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Mr Martin did not directly answer questions on whether all members of his Cabinet were safe in their jobs in the upcoming reshuffle. However he confirmed that Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien would not be moved from his position, following comments Mr Martin made on Friday evening.

He said there was a “certain context” to his comments on Mr O’Brien’s future, the publication of record homelessness figures on Friday night. “I really believe Mr O’Brien has brought a breadth in terms of the number of programmes that he has brought to the housing”.

He said there was a “clear agreement” with Fine Gael and the Greens on “key positions” but also that discussions would take place at the end of the year with regard to ministerial changeovers. Under the programme for government Mr Martin will rotate offices with Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar at the end of this year.

He said Fianna Fáil had been keen to take on the briefs of housing, education and healthcare where he acknowledged there were significant challenges. Asked why he was willing to give Mr O’Brien an explicit backing ahead of discussions with coalition partners and without giving the same to his cabinet colleagues, he said he had been asked a specific question in the context of homelessness figures. “The alternative to the reply I gave would have been that he wouldn’t be staying in his job, and that would be totally unfair.”

He said he foresaw that Fianna Fáil would be part of the next government. “It’s all there to play for,” he said, citing the party’s status as the largest in local government.

He said he would “not necessarily” see any revenues raised under windfall measures to be levied on energy companies being redistributed in further cost-of-living measures. “But it is revenue being raised that will be there for the state and will help to buffer our finances”.

“We’ll have to look at the situation through the entirety of 2023,” he said, adding that some cost-of-living interventions last year, such as those on school transport fees or increasing the back to school clothing allowance were not a mini-budget but “were nonetheless measures to help people”.

On Irish unity, he said there were many scenarios under discussion in civil society including that Stormont be retained and Dublin step into the role currently played by London. “Whatever happens on the future of this island, the three sets of relationships that underpin the Good Friday Agreement will still have to be part of any new dispensation on the island” - referencing the North-South and East-West relationships, and that between the two traditions, and new traditions in Northern Ireland.

He said he would love the Stormont executive to be back up and running so he could work with the parties in Northern Ireland on issues such as education.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times