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Opposition TDs abandon committee over Budget’s Croke Park 2 figures

TDs from Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and the independent ranks say Budget figures should not assume the passage of Croke Park 2.

YouTube: Stephen Donnelly

TDS FROM THE opposition parties have walked out of an Oireachtas committee meeting in protest at the government’s insistence on presenting revised figures for Budget 2013 which included the proposed savings from the Croke Park 2 deal.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming and independent TD Stephen Donnelly said they would not participate in a meeting of the Oireachtas sub-committee on Public Expenditure and Reform examining the revised figures.

Oireachtas members are due to discuss the revised figures, published last week, at a series of committee meetings in the coming weeks.

This afternoon’s meeting marks the first of those meetings, when Public Expenditure minister Brendan Howlin was presenting the figures and explaining how the revised Budgets would affect state agencies falling under his remit.

However, opposition TDs claimed the meetings should not go ahead – because the revised figures incorporated the €300 milion savings that would have been achieved if the Croke Park 2 deal had been accepted by public unions.

The committee voted 7-3 against rejecting the figures, however, prompting the members to walk out – saying the figures were a backhanded way of bullying workers into accepting pay cuts by claiming there was no room for manoeuvre.

Fianna Fáil’s Fleming called on Howlin to withdraw the figures and not publish alternative figures until there was a clearer picture about how much could be saved through a public pay deal.

“That’s well and good if you have no responsibility and you can approach it like the Republicans did in America and you could shut down the government,” Howlin said, saying the approval of the estimates was needed to ensure that some government services could continue to operate next week.

When opposition TDs refused to back down, and left the room, Howlin described the walkout was a ‘stunt’.

“When you consider the disastrous situation that Fianna Fáil  left this country in, with a deficit when they left the government, the equivalent of the worst in the world – 32.5 per cent of GDP! Not Somalia, not South Sudan, not Zimbabwe – us, under Fianna Fáil, which is quite shocking,” Howlin said.

Chairman Ciaran Lynch (Labour) said the meeting’s agenda had been circulated on Thursday, and the revised Budget figures published on Wednesday – but the opposition parties had not objected in the meantime.

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