Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said that a €1,000 tax break proposed by Fine Gael politicians would not benefit people on lower incomes.
Mr Martin insisted that all three Government parties support some form of income tax cut, but said Fianna Fáil’s priorities are “fairness” and looking after “those who are in need the most”.
He said the Coalition’s ambitions are stated in the Programme for Government, which he described as the “glue” that holds the parties together.
There has been tensions within Government since the publication of an opinion piece by three Fine Gael Ministers of State - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Martin Heydon and Peter Burke - in Monday’s Irish Independent calling for tax cuts to be introduced in the budget worth €1,000 for the average family.
Mr Martin told his parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday that articles such as it undermine the budgetary process.
‘Crashed the economy’
At Fine Gael’s parliamentary party meeting on the same evening, former minister Michael Creed said his party “shouldn’t take lectures from those who crashed the economy”.
Mr Martin did not respond directly to this remark when asked about it at a press conference held to mark the opening of a €3 million special needs education facility at St Clare’s National School in Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan on Friday.
Instead, he told reporters that budget tensions were “keeping you all entertained”.
He denied reports that he had said the intervention by the Fine Gael deputies was “unhelpful” at Fianna Fáil’s meeting on Wednesday. But he did not dispute his comments about the budgetary process being undermined.
“What I said at the (meeting), just be very clear, in terms of Government coherence it’s far better that we work through governmental processes, that’s all,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Martin said individual parties have “legitimacy” in raising their issues and priorities but the Government must work “coherently and collectively”. He said the three parties have made it “very clear” that they favour reducing the tax burden on workers.
Asked if he would identify a specific Fianna Fáil budget proposal, the party’s leader said he would not “pre-empt” the process. “Fianna Fáil’s priorities are as always fairness and we that we look after those who are in need the most.”
Mr Martin said Ireland has “a very progressive tax system” and that people with lower incomes do not pay any tax at all.
He said these people would not benefit from the measures proposed by the Fine Gael trio. “So you have to develop other measures by which they would benefit,” he added.
Mr Martin said there was a €1.1 billion reduction in the tax burden last year - the majority of which was for income tax - but some of it went towards a tax break for renters. “I think that was important that renters got a break last year and we’ll have to see that continue for renters but these are all the priorities.”
He said he also wants to see expected budget surpluses used strategically. Aside from a proposed new national reserve fund, Mr Martin suggested some of the surpluses could be used “to make sure that capital projects that we are starting now don’t become casualties of a changes economic cycle”.
He said this could help to “make sure that the various big public transport projects that we’ve initiated, get completed and don’t get knocked off by challenges in the immediate future”.