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Simon Coveney Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Simon Coveney: Micheál Martin is desperate

Fianna Fáil has hit back saying Enda Kenny is “like a broken down salesman promising tax cuts to everybody”.

Updated 12pm 

SIMON COVENEY HAS criticised Micheál Martin after the Fianna Fail leader said the Government’s election promises “turned out to be lies”.

Coveney told Morning Ireland that comments made by Martin on the same programme yesterday were “desperate” and “grossly inaccurate”.

“I thought Micheál was desperate to try and get back on the political pitch yesterday so he was slinging accusations around the place, but he was grossly inaccurate.

“So, either he was deliberately trying to mislead people or else he didn’t know what he was talking about,” Coveney said.

The Agriculture and Defence Minister was responding to Martin calling the Taoiseach “deluded” and saying no one takes him seriously.

Responding at Leinster House this morning, Fianna Fáil’s health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said the Taoiseach was “running around the country like a broken down salesman promising tax cuts to everybody”.

Coveney defended the Government’s five-point plan, saying it had created 85,000 jobs, reduced the budget deficit and begun reforming the health service and the public sector.

He said that universality of health care was “well under way” but would take two terms in office to implement – as would certain other measures.

During his interview, Martin criticised Fine Gael and Labour for not burning bondholders. Coveney refuted this saying junior bondholders were burned, saving taxpayers some €10 billion. He noted that the Government would have liked to have burned senior bondholders, but were unable to do so.

We did everything we could do in terms of burning bondholders.

Coveney also defended the tax measures introduced in Budget 2015, saying that highest earner now pay 21% of the total tax take, up from 19%; while those who earn €100,000 contribute 44% of the tax take, up from 22%. Those earning under €55,000 will pay 20% of the take, down from 21%.

He denied the ESRI’s assertion that the Budget was regressive, saying their estimation had been made before the revised water charges package was announced.

Coveney said the new approach to the charges was an attempt by the Government to “move away from conflict”. Plans allowing landlords to deduct outstanding water charges from tenant’s rents are expected to be pushed back today.

Kelleher told reporters this morning that Kenny was promising tax cuts to the richest people in Ireland while at the same time health services are underfunded.

“We have a situation where the Taoiseach is promising that if we stick with him he’s going to give tax cuts to the richest people in this country,” he said.

“At the same time we have a person who died on the street because of hypothermia because of the fact we don’t have adequate resources for homeless people.”

He added: “You have to ask yourself what is right? Tax cuts for the richest in society or ensuring that we have a fair and equitable society?”

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

First published 10.06am 

Micheál Martin: I think Enda Kenny is deluded and no one takes him seriously

State of the Nation: ‘Somebody dying on the street outside the Dáil is not acceptable’

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