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Do Sinn Féin's numbers add up? We could soon know for sure...

The government is considering a special Oireachtas committee to cost pre-budget submissions.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and colleagues examine the party's latest pre-budget submission
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and colleagues examine the party's latest pre-budget submission
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE GOVERNMENT IS set to establish a special Oireachtas committee to examine and cost political parties’ pre-budget proposals with a view to having it in place before the next election, TheJournal.ie understands.

The establishment of such a committee would allow for pre-budget submissions and other economic proposals from political parties and independent TDs and Senators to be costed, as well as providing an analysis of their impact on the wider economy.

There have been widespread calls for the establishment of such a body in order to provide certainty around the proposals being put forward by opposition parties and TDs.

Labour and Fine Gael frequently claim that proposals from opposition parties, particularly Sinn Féin, are not properly costed and are tantamount to ‘fantasy economics’.

Currently, the Department of Finance costs individual budget measures for opposition parties, but there is no facility for analysing the cumulative effect of budget measures and how they would impact on the economy.

Plans for the development of such a committee are at an early stage. It’s understood that the committee would be made up of elected representatives as well experts from various sectors of the economy.

‘Specific budgetary committee’

General Elections Campaigns Michael Noonan has spoken to Enda Kenny about the idea Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny mooted the establishment of such a committee in the Dáil this week, saying a proposal made to him by Finance Minister Michael Noonan should be “considered very carefully”.

He said a “specific budgetary committee” would allow TDs and Senators to have their proposals “costed in a way that would allow for better debate, more focused debate on the challenges that lie up ahead for Ireland”.

“In other words to reform the process by which we prepare for the future, by which we prepare for the budget. So that members would have opportunity to be better prepared and be able to better participate,” he said last Tuesday.

One government source suggested that it could work in the way the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in the United States operates. The CBO is a widely-respected federal agency that provides budget and economic information to the US Congress.

Current arrangements are ‘farcical’

emurph Source: TheJournal.ie

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy (above) has consistently called for such a committee to be set up, saying the current arrangements are “farcical” and unchanged since the economic crash seven years ago.

“Any move to give greater scrutiny to proposals before they are adopted, rather than after, is to be welcomed. TDs and opposition parties need to be able to have their own proposals costed, independent of government.

“Too often TDs and opposition parties stand up and say ‘we should do X or we must do Y’ without having to worry about the cost of such proposals or how the overall budget situation would be impacted.”

The Dublin South-East deputy said a budgetary oversight office would make for “far more responsible debate”.

Sinn Féin has also consistently called for the establishment of such a body. In an interview with TheJournal.ie last year, finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that such a body would be necessary in the lead up the general election.

“If we had an independent unit that would do that on behalf of political parties and independents then I believe that would be of huge benefit to the public debate and discourse that we’re having,” he said.

Fantasy or reality? Pearse Doherty wanted to explain ‘Shinnernomics’, so here’s what he said…

Shinnernomics: Opponents call them fantasy, so how realistic are Sinn Féin’s budget proposals?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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