Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has described a €1.24bn discrepancy in the costings in Fianna Fáil's election manifesto as “Fianna Fáil’s black hole of Calcutta”, writes Conor McMorrow of RTÉ’s Political Staff.
“We have a situation of Fianna Fáil on the road making it up as they go along and I don't think they are yet fit to be restored to government,” he said.
He was speaking this afternoon as he has launched a new online income calculator, which will show how every worker would be better off under Fine Gael’s plans to make work pay and abolish the USC.
He said that there had been various black holes, adding: “This is Fianna Fáil's black hole of Calcutta as they have taken the resources that are available and allocated all of them.”
He said the party had factored in the costings of the Lansdowne Road Agreement but had not allowed for anything beyond 2018. He added that the black hole was €1.24bn.
“They are either being deceptive or incompetent,” said the minister.
“We have a situation of Fianna Fáil on the road making it up as they go along and I don’t think they are yet fit to be restored to government.”
On the Universal Social Charge, Mr Noonan said: “Everyone agrees that the recovery is in place but it has not reached every home in the country. We will do that by abolishing the USC by 2020.”
He said that high personal taxes were bad for job creation and economic growth and that is why Fine Gael would abolish the USC.
Minister of State Simon Harris showed examples on the new online calculator of how Fine Gael’s policies would help taxpayers have more money in their pockets.
On his finance portfolio, Mr Noonan said: “You can’t stand still in managing an economy.
“There are a lot of Chicken Licken economists who say the sky is always going to fall in. If you believe the sky is going to fall in you will be totally paralysed and you won't do anything.”
He said that as minister, he had to identify the risk, put a number on it and then plan for the country based on an assessment of risk.
Asked about his involvement in the campaign to date, he said: “We have had a plan about the participation of ministers and I have done three major interviews.”
And responding to an assertion by Sinn Féin finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty that the minister had under-calculated the cost of abolishing the USC by €500m, Mr Noonan said: “Pearse Doherty is wrong. There is no point in making an assertion without being able to prove it.
“Pearse’s problem is that he got his maths grinds, or wherever he learned his maths, at the Gerry Adams maths school.”
On healthcare, Mr Harris asked how Sinn Féin was going to attract more doctors here when the party was proposing a marginal tax rate that is about 15% higher than it is in the North.
Mr Noonan also criticised Sinn Féin’s proposals for changing the tax rates on pension contributions. He said that would involve heavy impositions on people on average incomes as well as those on over €100,000.
Mr Noonan added that Sinn Féin was pretending that tax changes would only apply to those on over €100,000. He asserted that under the Sinn Féin plan anyone on over €19,000 would continue to pay USC.
Mr Noonan said: “We are not into auction politics. Our total costs is about half the cost of what Fianna Fáil did in the five budgets before the crisis.”
On lighter matters, when asked if he regretted rolling out the red carpet for Donald Trump in May 2014, he said that he was asked by Shannon Airport officials to meet the US presidential candidate.
Asked if he would do it again for Mr Trump, Mr Noonan joked: “I suppose I'd have to if he was President.”