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Soc Dems meet to consider FF-FG policy doc, but they want more detail

The party wrote to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar asking for more detail about the fiscal underpinning.

The Social Democrats are meeting today to discuss the policy framework document
The Social Democrats are meeting today to discuss the policy framework document

THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS have written to the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil looking for economic projections as they consider the offer to enter government.

The parliamentary party is meeting today to discuss the policy framework document that was approved Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil earlier this week.

In a letter to Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin, the Social Democrats said that in order to be able to respond appropriately it needs more information to understand the fiscal underpinnings. 

Some have called the document “vague” with some politicians also asking where the money is going to come from to pay for all the promises.

The Social Democrats’ letter asks Martin and Varadkar what are the fiscal and economic projections for the next five years which underpin the framework document, and also by how much are these projections impacted by Covid-19.

The party also asks for more detail about the projected impact of Brexit at the end of the year, as well as what the level of projected borrowing that will be needed to implement all the reforms outlined in the document.

Similar questions are raised in a letter to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. In this letter, the party also asks what the impact of the Covid19 will be emergency on international and European corporate taxation.

Co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall previously described the proposed plans for a State childcare scheme as “exceptionally weak”, while the Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said the document was “vague” and had no specific targets or timelines in relation to issues such as housing.

The six TDs are expected to release a statement after today’s meeting which should indicate whether they are open for talks to progress with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

The Labour Party will also hold its weekly parliamentary party meeting today, but it is not expected that the party will indicate one way or the other whether they can work with the document.

The Green Party met yesterday to discuss the policy plan.

The party leader Eamon Ryan wants to see more ambitious targets set for the reduction in emissions and more specific detail around housing 

‘Not a blank cheque’

Donohoe today denied accusations that the framework document drawn up by Fine Gael and Fianna Fail to encourage smaller parties to join them in a coalition government “is a blank cheque”.

“I don’t accept the accusations of blank cheques within this particular document. It is not a programme for government.

“We are going to be in a position when we exit Covid-19 where a very large majority of people in our country will either be facing lower incomes.

“We have 800,000 people on the live register or receiving some form of pandemic unemployment supports.

“The idea that increasing income tax or USC flies in the face of our success between 2011 and 2016 when we managed to fix the unemployment crisis.”

Donohoe said the country will have to borrow more money this year and next year.

“Our ability to sustain that is due to the fact that my party and I got the country to a point where we were in surplus.

“If you look at the kind of things that can create cost and you look at what we say in the document in relation to capital expenditure.

“We want to prioritise capital expenditure which we do.

“The document says we are committed to Slaintecare and building more houses.”

“In our last budget before an election we had a budget that had no tax reductions and no social welfare increases, a budget that was without political precedent in our country.

“If you look to the issues in this document compared to our general election manifesto, we were making commitments to increase social welfare and tax deductions.

“Those are absent in the document we are discussing today because we accept the reality has changed.”

“If we have a government that can last five years, it will be dominated by how we are going to deal with the holes in the economy as a consequence of Covid-19 and the economic consequences of it,” said the minister.

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