Belfast Telegraph

Varadkar must come clean over spending commitments, says Fianna Fail

Michael McGrath accused the Government of not having the money to back up its large-scale projects.

Michael McGrath (Niall Carson/PA)
Michael McGrath (Niall Carson/PA)

Fianna Fail has called on the Government to “come clean” and tell the public the truth over its big spending commitments.

Finance spokesman Michael McGrath accused Leo Varadkar’s Government of not having the money to back up its large-scale projects.

He said the National Broadband Plan and the spiralling cost overruns of the new National Children’s Hospital alone would leave “a very big hole” in the state’s finances

He told the Dail that between the two projects the Government would need to find an extra 900 million euro over the next three years. He claimed that figure would rise to 2 billion euro over the lifetime of the National Development Plan up to 2027.

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Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

He called on the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions to explain how he was going to fund the shortfall.

“You are committing money you simply do not have. These commitments are essentially unfunded,” he said.

The Cork South Central TD added that the figures he was citing were not Fianna Fail calculations, but numbers from the Government’s spending watchdog.

Mr Varadkar said he was “confident” the Government would be able to fund the projects.

He said Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe would publish the summer economic statement next month with an update on financial projections.

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Paschal Donohoe (Brian Lawless/PA)

He cited the latest CSO labour force survey, published on Tuesday, as evidence that the economy was doing well. He said it showed 2.3 million people at work in Ireland – “more than ever before”.

He said if the positive economic figures continue and we’re “not blown off course by a hard Brexit”, the Government would be in a very good position to put together a budget in September.

Mr McGrath said: “The money is simply not there. It will not be there in the summer economic statement next month and it’s about time you came clean with people and told them the truth.”

Mr Varadkar said he could not accept Fianna Fail trying to “put on a mask of economic prudence and economic competence”.

“Last time Fianna Fail was in government it quadrupled the national debt and we have reduced it,” he said.

PA

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