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'Are you joking?' - Taoiseach denies Budget is attempt to woo young voters away from Sinn Féin

The recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll shows that support for Sinn Féin remains strongest among younger voters.

The Taoiseach sits down with The Journal post-Budget.
The Taoiseach sits down with The Journal post-Budget.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has denied that today’s Budget is a bid to stem the tide of young voters heading over to Sinn Féin. 

A number of measures targeted young people in the Budget today. These include:

  • 19-24 year olds set to get half price public transport
  • Women aged 17-25 to get free contraception
  • PSRI changes making it easier for younger people to access to some benefits
  • SUSI grant increases
  • Minimum wage increase

The recent Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll shows that support for Sinn Féin remains strongest among younger voters, though it must be noted that the party has made gains among older voters also.

The poll shows that in the 18-24 age group, 44% support Sinn Féín. In the 25-34 age group, 33% support Mary Lou McDonald’s party, while 31% of 35-49 year olds support the party.

Fianna Fáil support remains with older voters, with 32% of over 65s supporting Martin’s party.

A recent review of Fianna Fáil’s general election performance also noted that the party had an issue with appealing to young people due to its stance on a number of issues in the past, such as the Eighth Amendment.

Woo young voters 

When asked this evening if this Budget is a bid to woo young people to Fianna Fáil, and away from Sinn Féin, the Taoiseach said: “Are you joking … no is the answer.”

He said the sense he had coming out of the pandemic is that young people “took lot of hits” over the last two years, with college life disrupted, the Leaving Cert cancelled, and their lives curtailed.

“Young people have had tough time,” he said. However, speaking to The Journal, he said the overall of theme of today’s Budget is tackling the cost of living.

“That is the motivation,” he said.

While there may be some supports for young people in the Budget, there is very little for renters, something that was pointed out relentlessly by the Opposition today. 

When this point was put to the Taoiseach this evening, he said: 

“Well I don’t agree with you actually, there is tax relief for workers, and young people who are working. The general tax relief measures will help people under €35,000 incomes, and above €35,000 incomes.”

A lot of people in their mid-20s will benefit from the tax relief, he said.

The housing minister will put a cap on the rent level increase “shortly” he said, adding that the government has been advised that the rise in inflation is only “temporary”.

Overheating the economy

When pointed out the to the Taoiseach that the income tax change is worth only €2 per week for 35k earners, the Taoiseach said:

“You have to look at it cumulatively. You don’t want to overheat the economy. Let’s look at the context of the background here, we’re coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic. 

 “I’m in marvel at the degree to which people have quickly dismissed the pandemic and its impact. I think we’re making a faster economic recovery than we thought. 

“We don’t want to overheat the economy. There’s a bit of inflation about the place in Europe and the world and that can happen here. 

“One of our concerns with Housing for All and construction generally in the National Development Plan is there is a lot of investment going on there and costs are going up. 

“So we can’t overheat the economy and that’s why the tax package is limited but it’s an improvement and at least it’s better than not doing any taxation and not widening the bands for certain workers. 

“It’s an improvement but it’s limited because if we do anymore we run the risk of overheating the economy in the short term which we do not want to do. 

Martin also hit back against claims that the €5 social welfare and pension increase was “crumbs”.

“I don’t agree with that. I think coming out of the pandemic it will protect people against cost of living increases. 

“Some people will do better in terms of living alone allowance and fuel allowance in particular. If you add all of it together over the next while it will help people. 

“Again, it’s over €1 billion overall in expenditure increases. We had to look after education. We had to look after childcare. We had to look after health. These are all substantial areas that have improved. 

Martin also denied that the government was essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul by giving a €5 increase in social welfare and the State pension but hitting people with an increas in carbon tax.

“The older generations have an obligation to make sure we leave this planet in a better way for young children and young people because we’ve seen already this summer the degree to which climate change is killing the planet, destroying people’s lives and we have to take action and every country does.”

On the issue of childcare, the Taoiseach said the government wants to drive costs down for parents but that it will take time.

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“We want to freeze it this year but then see what we can do in future years in terms of reducing costs.

He added: 

“We need to improve and make sure that the capacity of the childcare system is there for the longer term.

“We need to get better pay for workers in the childcare sector.”

Speaking about the roll out of reduced transport fares for younger people, the Taoiseach said he acknowledged that the people will not take public transport if it is too costly. 

He said the government wants to reduce fares for other cohorts, but said “free transport” is a long way off for the majority of people in Ireland.

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