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Opposition parties hit back at criticism of their alternative budgets

The government claims neither of the two main opposition parties had their pre-budget submissions fully costed but this has been described as a “complete red herring” by Fianna Fáil.

FIANNA FÁIL AND Sinn Féin have both criticised the government over its claim that neither of the two main opposition parties had their alternative budgets costed by the Department of Finance.

Though the two parties acknowledged that their pre-budget submission documents were not costed as one document by the Department of Finance, they both defended their alternative proposals.

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that all bar one of his party’s budget measures – the €800 million wealth tax – were costed while Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath said the government’s criticism was a “complete red herring”.

In the Dáil on Wednesday night, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore was particularly scathing of both opposition parties and independents in the Technical Group claiming that none of them availed of a facility in the Department of Finance which costs opposition parties’ budgets.

“It beggars belief that none of the opposition parties and none of the opposition independents, it would appear, went into the Department of Finance to do any kind of serious examination of their budget proposals in advance of this Budget,” Gilmore said.

He said that not having alternative budgets costed “diminished the quality of the debate” and said the opposition “didn’t do a serious job” in having their budgets “properly costed”.

But both parties said that some of their budgetary measures were not costed because the Department of Finance would not cost them. Both said that all other measures were costed through parliamentary questions or submissions to the Department.

‘Costings in the public domain’

“Fianna Fáil got the Department of Finance to cost all the policy options that they were willing to cost. We submitted a very large number of parliamentary questions and other ideas were costed separately by the Department of Finance,” McGrath told TheJournal.ie.

“Everything that could be costed by Department was costed,” he added while insisting that the government’s criticism was “a complete red herring and an attempt to distract from their own budget”.

McGrath said measures in their document in relation to the tobacco industry and diesel would not be costed by the Department while Doherty said that the Department would not cost one of Sinn Féin’s biggest budget measures, to raise €800 million through a wealth tax.

Doherty told TheJournal.ie: “Every single one of our taxation measures were presented to Department of Finance for costing, they costed every single one of them, bar the wealth tax. All of those costings are in the public domain.”

He said that Sinn Féin wanted to ensure that their costings were transparent which is why they started submitting parliamentary questions (PQs) even before the summer break. On Friday he released a full breakdown of the PQs Sinn Féin submitted which helped formulate their alternative budget.

Doherty also claimed that several measures in Fianna Fáil’s budget were “simply not costed”.

He said that Sinn Féin was able to cost its wealth tax proposal through use of an answer to a parliamentary question last year in which Finance Minister Michael Noonan said that if the French-proposed version of the wealth tax was imposed in Ireland it would raise around €500 million to €600 million.

He also said that the party’s biggest pre-budget revenue raising measure, standardising discretionary tax reliefs would bring in €960 million and he said that his had been fully costed by the Department of Finance.

Read: Are Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin to merge and become… Fianna Féin?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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