Tensions between Government parties surrounding the next budget is a “fake fight” orchestrated by Fine Gael, a Sinn Féin TD has said.
In an op-ed published this week, Minister of State Martin Heydon and two other Fine Gael ministers – Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Peter Burke – called for a full-time worker on a wage of €52,000 to get €1,000 back in tax relief in the next budget.
This was seen to cause tension between Fine Gael and their partners in government Fianna Fáil, as the upcoming budget will be from Fianna Fáil’s Minister for Finance Michael McGrath.
Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Government was orchestrating a “fake fight” in response to poor polling figures.
“We have to remember that this is a Government now – and it’s been played out in the public – a Government who’s more interested in getting one over each other in terms of op-eds and so on than actually dealing with the crisis that people face now,” he told RTÉ.
He added: “So what we have is a fake fight orchestrated by Fine Gael. Why? Because of their disastrous polling numbers.”
Mr Doherty also said that the Government parties could not be differentiated and the budget discussions were designed to distract attention from issues such as housing.
“This is a fight that is about distracting the public away from the here and now, and it’s a fight that is orchestrated by Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil have fallen for it hook line and sinker,” he said.
“And it’s about two parties that can’t differentiate from each other. We have a situation when Leo Varadkar looks in the mirror, what he sees is Micheál Martin looking back at him, and he’s looking at polling figures that are dropping and dropping.
“So they’re trying to organise a fight like this to distract away from the real issues that are present.”
On Friday, Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the “Government must act with coherence and collective Cabinet responsibility”, as he insisted that all parties were committed to reducing income tax.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar defended the junior minister’s actions and disputed the idea that the publication of the piece was a tactic to associate tax cuts with his party in the eyes of voters.
Government chief whip and Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton said “the Government is working very well together”.
Ms Naughton also said there was “nothing new” in what the junior Fine Gael ministers had proposed.
“This is Fine Gael policy and our belief that we need to ensure that people who are working keep more of their hard-earned income and that’s what the three junior ministers were articulating,” she said.
“It’s in the programme for Government that we want people who are working to keep more of their hard-earned income if they get a pay rise, if they do overtime. It’s about putting more money back in people’s pockets.
“So I really don’t understand what the issue is this week and every single party in government and across the Dáil will obviously articulate their policies in relation to this but there’s nothing new in this.
“And obviously there is a budgetary process but this is a conversation within Fine Gael that has been happening for a long time now.”
Ms Naughton was asked to confirm if Fine Gael would commit to delivering on the €1,000 tax break in the budget.
“We’ve delivered in the last budgets, we’ve been consistent around reducing people’s tax people who are working and it is in the programme for government, so yes, we will be having those conversations and continuing that delivery about putting more money in people’s pockets,” she said.