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Reform Alliance critical of Budget measures but not united in opposing it

The alliance of Fine Gael rebels will not be taking a collective stance on the Budget but have already sharply criticised some measures being introduced by the government.

Left to right: Terence Flanagan, Lucinda Creighton and Billy Timmins
Left to right: Terence Flanagan, Lucinda Creighton and Billy Timmins
Image: Screengrab

Updated 5pm

THE REFORM ALLIANCE is not taking a united position on the Budget with early votes already indicating a divide in the group that most recently called for a No vote in the Seanad referendum.

The grouping of former Fine Gael TDs, who were expelled from the parliamentary party over the abortion bill in July, has insisted it is an “alliance of individuals” but all seven of its TDs and Senators did oppose the government on Seanad abolition and campaigned for a No vote.

On the Budget however the group is divided. Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon Dublin South East TD Lucinda Creighton said she will be supporting the Budget but is “deeply concerned” about some of the measures being implemented.

She was also heavily critical of the lack of transparency in the Budget process and the leaking of some of the measures to newspapers.

Last night Creighton, Billy Timmins, Terence Flanagan, and Denis Naughten voted for an increase in excise duty but Peter Mathews voted against it.

In another vote, regarding changes to tax reliefs on health insurance, Timmins voted with the government while Mathews and Naughten voted against.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie last night Wicklow TD Timmins said that the group would look to bring amendments to the Finance Bill but confirmed there would be no unified position on the Budget.

Several of the RA TDs contributed to the debates last night with Naughten and Creighton both taking similar positions on excise duties and calling for a ‘lid levy’ on the sale of alcohol in off licences.

Lid levy call

Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Naughten said he was disappointed that the government had not considered introducing a lid levy telling the Dáil while Creighton said the measure is a good idea and added that it would “make sense” to examine it.

Timmins argued against the increase in excise duties on beer, cider and wine, arguing that it is damaging the Irish pub industry.

Timmins, who is involved in a family pub, said: “There was a documentary on Irish pubs recently, although I did not see it. It is out in the cinemas. The pub plays an integral part in Irish life. Pubs are literally dying on their feet.”

On the resolution to increase excise on cigarettes by 10 cent, Mathews encouraged his colleagues who smoke to give them up.

“I gave up cigarettes on 19 August 1980,” he told the Dáil. “One must just decide to do so, and one can do so. My colleagues should not feel despair that they cannot give up cigarettes. Of course, they can. I did it and I am not iron willed.”

The resolution to cap tax relief on medical insurance at €1,000 for adults and €500 for children drew strong criticism from Naughten while Creighton said the government’s proposal was “ill-thought-out”.

She said: “The Minister stated in his speech gold-plated health insurance packages would be the only health insurance packages to be affected by this measure. This is incredibly misleading. The vast majority of health insurance packages will be affected by the elimination of this relief.”

Mathews compared the government to magicians, saying: “When I heard the word “gold-plated”, I said: “Be careful here, we are in the territory of magicians.” We use illusions.

“That is how magicians work. One does not see how they do the tricks but one gets the feeling that one understands them and one believes what one sees, which is not always the truth.”

The Reform Alliance’s two senators, Fidelma Healy-Eames and Paul Bradford, did not contribute to debate on the Budget announcement in the Seanad yesterday afternoon.

First published 4.01pm

Read: ‘Beware of false prophets in sheep’s clothing’: FG chairman’s warning to Reform Alliance

More: ‘An end to a fairly long saga’: Mathews’ departure not mourned in Fine Gael

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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