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'I'm not making changes because someone demanded it': Donohoe says Budget was Fine Gael's decision

The Taoiseach and Minister for Finance joined TheJournal.ie this evening to answer your questions about the Budget.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

MINISTER FOR FINANCE Paschal Donohoe has dismissed any suggestion that his Budget decisions were influenced by Fianna Fáil or coalition colleagues.

The Minister and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar were speaking during a Facebook live event where they answered questions from TheJournal.ie readers about measures announced yesterday.

Donohoe said all of the decisions he made were based on commitments that were in his party’s election manifesto. He rejected the suggestion that improvements in disability benefit and other welfare provisions were as a result of a push from people like Junior Minister Finian McGrath or the Fianna Fail party in general.

Watch the debate in full here >

“All of the things that we have made happen were Fine Gael priorities. I’m not making these changes because somebody’s extracting it out of me or demanding I do it,” he said. “I’m making these changes because these are the right things to do, they’re an essential element of how a growing economy like our own that is a decent society should look after people.”

I’ve dealt with some kind of charges during the day and questions regarding ‘why are you changing these welfare benefits again?’ because we changed them all last year. The reason for that is if you look at these payments over the context of a decade, over ten years, for many of our citizens who are receiving these increases, this is the second change in a decade.
So much harm was done to people as a result of the terrible difficulty that we went through. We’re trying to make sure they can participate in some way now from the change that’s on the way now in our economy.

Delays in welfare increases

The minister also addressed criticisms about increases in jobseekers’, carers and disability allowances and the State pension as these will not come into effect until March next year.

“It’s about trying to make fair choices with the money that we have available to us.” he told TheJournal.ie.

“At the end of the day, I sit down with the Taoiseach and I say ‘this is how much money that we think we’re going to collect in tax next year, this is where I think we can add to it and then this is how we’re going to spend the money’.

“And even when you’ve the great responsibility and privilege of trying to look after an economy and be a member of government and lead it, it does boil down to that basic insight that we can only spend how much money we collect or are able to borrow in the future.

That boils down directly to what happened in Social Protection. The decision we made by making those payments available a couple of weeks later than we made them available a year ago. That then gave us the money to increase the family income supplement, to increase the qualified child allowance, to increase the fuel allowance by a week, to make more community employment schemes available for people over the age of 55 and in rural areas.

Source: Nick Callan

Housing

The interview was the first event at which the two politicians spoke together on yesterday’s announcements and on the issue of housing, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the government wants to make sure that people in their 20s and 30s can buy their own homes.

He said the focus in the housing debate is “almost always about homelessness and people on housing lists” and the vast majority of people do not qualify for this and have to save up for their own property.

“The main way to ensure we have houses that are affordable is to ensure we have lots more supply”.

Measures to clamp down on vacant property owners and to encourage developers to start building will help, he said.

The Taoiseach also said the government had found it difficult to identify a targeted measure to help earners in the €25,000 and €35,000 brackets. He acknowledged that tax cuts will have little impact on these workers, but said improvements in the cost of living should ease the burden on this group.

“None of us will be millionaires, but we will be slightly better off,” next year according to Varadkar.

If you missed our interview at Facebook’s headquarters in Dublin tonight, you can watch it back here

Related: Budget 2018 measures will bring only 31 additional social housing builds next year>

Read: What’s behind the Budget 2018 decisions? YOUR chance to ask Leo and Paschal>

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