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"Unacceptable": Fianna Fáil's Budget battle with Varadkar is going down to the wire

The “11th hour” nature of the proposed delay in pension increases is not acceptable, according to Micheál Martin.

THE LEADER OF Fianna Fáil has said the “11th hour” nature of some Budget measures proposed by the Government is a concern to the party.

It follows days of wrangling over a proposed €5 increase to the State pension.

The Government has been considering delaying the increase by several months so that it doesn’t kick in until mid-2017.

The Government’s position is that postponing the rise would allow other possible increases to be given to those on social welfare, such as disabled people, carers, blind people and widows.

Fianna Fáil’s public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary attacked Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar’s stance on Friday, saying:

Leo likes to make you think he is all cuddly and caring and that he suddenly walked into a phone  box and walked out with a cape of fairness – that’s not Leo.

And last night, Micheál Martin said that while Budget negotiations were continuing, he was concerned about the suggestion that payment increases would go back to mid-year.

“We find that’s unacceptable,” he said, adding that the budgetary process would have to be improved next year. He declined to use the term “red line issue” in respect of the pensions row.

Fianna Fáil had been “very clear that the welfare payment should begin from January,” Martin said, speaking in advance of the annual Fianna Fáil President’s Dinner in Dublin.

Irish general election Micheál Martin Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Speaking to TheJournal.ie on Friday a Government source said that the proposed delay in the increase was about fairness.

“As Leo highlighted in the Dáil, the aim is to give carers, disabled, blind, and widows the same increase as pensioners.

These groups had their payments cut by €16 a week by Fianna Fáil and have had no restoration. The only way we can possibly afford this is to defer the payments until after January.

Garda stations phone tapping Leo Varadkar Source: Brian Lawless

Fianna Fáil has had a prominent role in negotiating this year’s Budget as a result of the ‘confidence and supply’ deal it struck with Fine Gael to facilitate the formation of Enda Kenny’s minority government, in the wake of February’s election.

Talks have been taking place among the two parties, along with independents and members of the Independent Alliance in Government in recent weeks.

There’s also been a fair amount of brinkmanship – case in point, the following from Laois Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming on Thursday:

We have this supply and confidence arrangement and it will be shown in the next week in the Budget if they comply with that agreement – the split between taxation and expenditure – and [if] there are no shocks or surprises to Fianna Fáil on the day of the Budget, the Budget will pass.
 If they breach those agreements, the Budget won’t pass.

The agreement, signed in May following weeks of talks, states that Fianna Fáil will facilitate Budgets that are “consistent with the agreed policy principles” within the confidence and supply document.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe will deliver Budget 2017 on Tuesday.

Read: Noonan says he had “no legal basis” to interfere with controversial Nama Project Eagle sale>

Read: Ireland is giving €7.5 million to help Syrian people>

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