The priority for Ireland’s budget must be sailing the nation through the “Brexit storm”, the opposition finance spokesman has said.
Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe described the budget as “without precedent … developed in the shadow of Brexit” as it came just weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union.
As ongoing negotiations between the UK and EU leave uncertainty over potential future regulations on the Irish border, Michael McGrath said Fianna Fail gave the government “time and space to focus on delivering the best possible Brexit outcome for Ireland”.
Fianna Fail has been involved in a confidence-and-supply deal with the Fine Gael minority government since 2016. It will end at next year’s general election.
“That was and remains the right approach from the largest party in opposition given the enormity of what is at stake,” Mr McGrath said.
“Our decision to allow a fourth budget to pass should not be misread as an endorsement of this Government.
“Like many of our citizens, we are deeply frustrated at the Government’s obsession with spin and PR, and the failure to deliver where it matters.
“The people will have their opportunity to give their verdict on the Government, but for now the priority has to be to steer the country through this Brexit storm.”
However, other parties were critical of the budget.
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty criticised it as “lacking hope”.
“This budget could and should have given workers and families a break. It hasn’t,” he told the Irish Parliament.
“With the political will and the right ideas, this budget could put money back in people’s pockets and improved their access to public services.
“It could have begun to build a fair tax system, making sure that those who benefit most from our economy pay their fair share – the banks, multinationals and international property investors who have enjoyed a free ride for far too long.
“This budget has failed to deliver on these modest demands. It is a budget short on ideas, short on policies, short on solutions. It is a budget that lacks ambition, lacks direction, and lacks hope.”
Labour senator Ged Nash claimed the budget is likely to lead to those “most impacted by Brexit being left behind”.
“There has been no increase to core social welfare rates despite those on fixed incomes facing increased living costs in 2020, and no mention in the minister’s speech of the increase in the minimum wage and when it will come into force,” he said.
“Inflation of 1.5% is expected next year but if you are a carer, a pensioner couple or someone with disabilities, you will have to live on less in 2020.
“In the real world this is a cut in all but name. This represents a slap in the face for the most vulnerable in society and an utter humiliation for Fianna Fail.
“A no-deal Brexit will also result in increased food and living costs for those on low and fixed incomes.
“How can Fine Gael describe this as a Brexit Budget, when those whose living standards will be most impacted by a no-deal Brexit are left behind?”