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Sinn Féin wants an 'easier budget' with adjustment of less than €3.1 billion

Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Michael McGrath says the Government should soften the budget adjustment this year, but Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien says the important issue is where the cuts are coming from.

Sinn Féin's Joanathan O'Brien
Sinn Féin's Joanathan O'Brien
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photcall Ireland

SINN FÉIN HAS said it is calling for an easier budget this year, urging the government to ensure all deficit-reduction proposals consider the welfare of the most vulnerable.

Last year, the party supported the coalition’s deficit reduction figure of €3.5 billion, but not the means it achieved it. A spokesperson for the party said the adjustment it will propose in its submission later this year will be less than the Troika’s target and less than the mooted €3.1 billion.

Although Cork North Central deputy Jonathan O’Brien has said that his party is not necessarily joining Fianna Fáil in its calls for an easier budget, he says there “must be a change in how cuts are implemented”.

If cuts are to be made in this October’s budget, they must not affect the “most vulnerable in society”, he told TheJournal.ie.

Today, Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath told The Irish Times that his party was joining the Labour Party’s call for a softer budget. McGrath said that the Government should reduce significantly the €3.1 billion in cuts proposed by the troika.

McGrath said that the troika shouldn’t be permitted to set the terms of the Irish budget and said that the restructuring of promissory note debt meant that Ireland could afford to make roughly €1 billion less in cuts over the next two years.

The troika has set Ireland a target of a deficit of no more than 5.1 per cent of GDP this year. The proposed adjustment of €3.1 billion will yield a 4.3 per cent deficit.

Although he supports an adjustment, O’Brien is clear that any pain must only target those who can afford to pay.

It’s not about how much we’re saving. It’s about who has to bear the brunt of it.

“We’ve seen cuts to child benefit, carers allowances and other cuts to the most vulnerable in society. We’ve had regressive budgets that have done nothing to stimulate the local economy. In Cork, the number of shops closing outstrips those that are opening.”

Specifically, O’Brien says that Sinn Féin will demand that children be protected.

“We want children to be protected. That means an end to cuts to child benefit and back to school clothing allowances.”

While he supports the plan to have Ireland emerge from the bailout on time, O’Brien says that that can not be our only aim.

The world doesn’t stop the day after we exit a bailout. People will still have to live here and pay their bills here.

“We’re thinking about what kind of State we will be left with.”

This article was amended at 16.43. Additional reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll.

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