By Cillian Sherlock, PA
Fianna Fáil Minister for State Dara Calleary said Fine Gael junior ministers were not “dictating” to the Minister for Finance when they made policy suggestions for the budget.
This week, three Fine Gael junior ministers – including a junior finance minister – called for a full-time worker on a wage of €52,000 to get €1,000 back in tax relief in the next budget.
Ministers of state Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Martin Heydon and Peter Burke argued that this cohort “deserve a break”.
Budget 2024 will be Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath first as finance minister, having served as public expenditure minister for the past three fiscal packages, alongside Fine Gael’s Paschal Donohoe.
When asked on Wednesday whether he would be “bullied” over the budget by his coalition colleagues, Mr McGrath replied “certainly not”.
He added: “I think it’s inevitable in a three-party coalition government that there will be times when parties want to assert, as they see it, their identity, and will seek to carve out space on a particular issue.”
That position was echoed by Mr Calleary on RTÉ’s Drivetime on Thursday when asked about the Fine Gael policy position.
“We have three distinct parties in government that work well together.
“We’re working well under the framework of a programme for government. But every budget season, there is good debate and good discourse within Government.”
Asked if the ministers were dictating to his party colleague Minister McGrath, he replied: “They’re not dictating, they’re making policy suggestions – there’s a difference.
“The policy suggestions will go into the mix. Michael McGrath will present the budget and Paschal Donohoe who on budget day, and there will be a lot of suggestions between now and budget day, from within Fianna Fáil, from our other government partners and indeed outside the political system.
Earlier, Fine Gael Minister Simon Coveney said he did not think the junior ministers had an “intention to upset anyone”.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said they were outlining party policy in an opinion piece.
“Three junior ministers, I think reflected the view in Fine Gael, in an opinion piece. and I mean, that’s what this was.
“And they were outlining Fine Gael policy which I support, which is that when the economy is growing, that we should give what many people call the ‘squeezed middle’, in other words, people who are middle income in Ireland, that we should try to give them a break.”
Mr Coveney said the Fine Gael junior ministers were not “bullying” the Minister for Finance.
“Let’s be clear, nobody is bullying anybody.”
He said it was a a good coalition government in which the parties worked well together.
“That doesn’t mean that the parties have the same views all the time when it comes to policy.”