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Fine Gael TDs fearful of the heat over carbon tax hikes - and call for increase to fuel allowance

There is expected to be a package of supports for Bord na Mona workers announced.

Fine Gael TDs at Leinster House yesterday
Fine Gael TDs at Leinster House yesterday
Image: Christina Finn

WITH AN INCREASE in carbon tax set to be one of the key reveals in today’s Budget 2020 announcement, Fine Gael TDs were out in force yesterday calling for a “transition fund” for new jobs, as well as an increase to the fuel allowance.

Speaking at Leinster House, Laois-Offaly TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy told reporters that she is “very anxious to see that there is a just transition for everybody. And this is going to be very challenging”.

“It must be used to make people who are most vulnerable and given them an opportunity to feel the pain less,” she said of this just transition.

Corcoran Kennedy suggested that the most vulnerable should be compensated with increases in fuel allowances:

If you have old age pensioners who are dependent on solid fuel, it will be allowed for in the fuel allowance. That is as I understand how this [will work].

In particular, Corcoran Kennedy said fossil fuel workers are going to be disproportionately affected under the government’s plans, and the Budget today must reflect that.

“The just transition impact on the workers in Bord na Mona or other peat workers must be to the top priority of consideration. Therefore I want to see a midlands regional transition fund.”

She was not the only politician raising the issue of Bord na Mona: Junior Minister Kevin Boxer Moran said yesterday that he has had some “heated” exchanges with the Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe over the rise in carbon taxes and its impact.

On the topic of carbon tax, Deputy Kate O’Connell said the government is very aware there are people out there who will be burdened with a “huge tax”, particularly those in rural Ireland who rely on solid fuels. 

She said supports for retrofitted homes in rural Ireland would give support to people living in these homes so “they’re not faced with a big bill”. 

Corcoran Kennedy thought similarly, saying there is a massive retrofitting programme required across the country. She put her own county Offaly and the Midlands forwards as “a fantastic pilot for that”, saying “it seems we are going to be disproportionately affected”.

Stacking up

Some of the TDs present yesterday criticised other opposition parties and accused them of making demands that “don’t stack up”.

Martin Heydon described the Green Party and Sinn Féin as putting forward budgets that ignore a hard Brexit.

He described them as “preparing budgets that absolutely make no real reference to the Brexit situation we’re facing into as a country, that have billions and billions in new taxes, that would actually bring us back to the type of reckless spending that we had in the past, particularly when Eamon Ryan was in government”.

The Green figures and the Sinn Féin figures, and the Labour figures don’t stack up because they don’t take account of what we’re facing in terms of a hard Brexit and it’s time they were honest about that.

Heydon said his Bill – which would see the legislative powers of Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) expanded to allow them to examine opposition demands in advance of each budget – would stop parties making promises ‘they can’t deliver on’. 

Heydon told TheJournal.ie that whenever Fine Gael is in opposition they will not be making promises that are not costed. 

If the Bill is accepted, Heydon said it will apply to all future oppositions. He added that “absolutely” his party would adhere to the new rules. 

Fianna Fáil were also accused of being “pretty sensitive flowers” following the party’s criticism of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, after he compared FF to “predators”. Heydon said Varadkar’s comments were made in reference to the Fianna Fail-Green Party government 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, when asked about Fine Gael’s promise to abolish the Universal Social Charge, a commitment made in the Programme for Government, party TD Colm Brophy said being in government sometimes involves admitting that certain things can’t be achieved, based on the circumstances of the time. 

With reporting by Cate McCurry of Press Association

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