Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe has rejected claims that the budget he delivered in the Dáil yesterday was election-focused.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Donohoe said he knew he had not done all that everyone wanted him to do.

The minister said he wants the budget to be part of a steady and broad, social and economic recovery.

Mr Donohoe took calls from the public on the sugar tax, pensions and the tripling of the commercial stamp duty.

In the Dáil, Solidarity/PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett called the budget announcements on housing and homelessness "a hoax" and said they merely reiterated previously made announcements on housing.

During Leaders' Questions, Mr Boyd Barrett pointed out that Minister Donohoe said 3,800 new social houses would be built next year but said that was already announced by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy.

As the crisis escalates and with 8,000 people homeless, he said, there was nothing new in the budget.

He said the last line of defence for homelessness has collapsed as all the hotels of the approved lists for homeless people are full.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cited measures in the budget such as the vacant site levy, the ending of the seven-year rule on capital gains tax and assistance for developers to get money to build houses.

He detailed the figures for new homes and said 7,900 homes will be added to social housing next year.

Funding for homeless bodies will go up by 18% next year, he added.


Full Budget coverage
Budget: The key points


Budget 2018 will see welfare payments increased by €5 a week to come into effect next March.

Health will get a 5% increase for an additional 1,800 staff and to reduce medication costs.

An additional 1,300 teaching posts, 1,000 extra special needs assistants and 800 additional gardaí will be recruited.

On the tax front, the 2.5% and 5% rates of USC will be reduced.

The Government is also raising the point people enter the higher income tax rate by €750.

Fianna Fáil says it stopped return to socially unfair budgets

This afternoon, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the Government's values were self evident in the budget; to balance the books and free the next generation from debt.

He told the Dáil that the Government believed in continuing with debt reduction and modest tax deductions.

Mr Varadkar said the Government wanted to help those who needed it most, with a €5 increase in social welfare payments.

He said the investment of €1.9 billion in housing would provide homes for 25,000 individuals.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said his party had stopped a return to socially unfair budgets.

He also said that the budget was designed to say as little as possible on housing so as not to take away from the plans of the Minister for Housing.

First Budget measures passed by Dáil

Last night the Dáil voted to increase commercial stamp duty from 2% to 6%, a measure which the Government is aiming to use to raise €376m next year. 

It was the first vote on Budget 2018, and fears were raised that it would affect the sale of farm land.

Nevertheless, 64 TDs voted for the change, with 31 voting against and 41 abstaining.

The Dáil heard that the new rate would apply to the sale of some farm land.

However there would be exemptions on land sold within families, sales to young farmers and land sold for housing.

The Department of Agriculture said last night that this covers most farm land sales.

The Minister for Finance has said that when the plan to increase commercial stamp duty became public a few days ago there was "opposition articulated to us by interests in the commercial sector."

He said "They did not approach me directly, if they had tried to I wouldn't have met them".

When asked if he was making farmers collateral damage he said " I have no intention of making anyone collateral damage."

A financial resolution increasing the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes by 50c from midnight last night was passed without a vote.

The Dáil also agreed to reduce the corporate tax-write off offered in relation to the transfer of intellectual property to 80%.

Sláintecare a missed opportunity, opposition says

The co-leader of the Social Democrats has said the Budget was a missed opportunity to start the implementation of SláinteCare, an all-party plan on healthcare.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, Róisín Shortall said there is little space for any new developments or reform programmes and what is proposed for health falls far short of what is required.

She added it is unfortunate that the Budget does not provide funding for the modernisation of IT systems in health, because investment now would lead to long term savings.

In addition, she said efforts to introduce free GP care for all does not appear to have moved on at all.

Ms Shortall also said that the Budget does not benefit everyone and does little for people on lowest income.

Meanwhile Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on public expenditure and reform has said that his party remains committed to three budgets as part of the confidence and supply agreement.

Dara Calleary said that his party would contribute to a third budget once Fine Gael continued to respect their input.

Responding to Ms Shortall's criticism regarding Sláintecare, he said that investment in the National Treatment Purchase Fund in 2018 will take people off waiting lists.

He added that the Sláintecare plan will be delivered over a ten-year period and Fianna Fáil was committed to its part in it.