Simon Coveney has denied there are any tensions within the Coalition and said no one is being bullied.
Responding to a question about an Irish Independent story in which three Fine Gael Ministers called for tax breaks of €1,000 for the average family in the next Budget, the Minister for Enterprise said the article had been an opinion piece which reflected Fine Gael policy which he supported.
“I don’t think there was an intention to upset anyone. It was an opinion piece,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
“Three junior ministers were outlining again, a 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, that we should try to give them a break from a tax point of view to allow them take home more of the money that they earn themselves for their families.
“And that’s what we did last year in the budget. That’s what we did the year before. And, you know, because the Irish economy is as strong as it is, we can afford to increase pensions, to increase welfare rates, to reduce the cost of childcare, to invest in education, but also to give people who are working hard, who are earning less money that is the source of the revenue for governments. It gives them a break as well.
“We do think that people who are on middle incomes should be able to take home more of the money that they earn for themselves.”
Mr Coveney denied that Minister for Finance Michael McGrath was being bullied. “Let’s be clear, nobody’s bullying anybody. And you know, there are lots of senior mature politicians in Government and in the different parties in Government.
“Just because we’re in coalition doesn’t mean we’re the same. You know, different parties have different priorities in Government and at different times, those priorities get to appear in newspapers and opinion pieces and so on. And this is no different to that. There’ll be lots of discussion in the months ahead.”
Mr Coveney pointed out that he did not attend Wednesday night’s Fine Gael parliamentary party as he was en-route to Brussels so he could not comment.
“What I would say is that this is a good coalition Government. The parties have worked well together. That doesn’t mean that the parties have the same views all the time when it comes to policy.
“And what we’re seeing now is different parties in the coalition outlining different views as to how we can use a growing strong economy to ensure that we support families across the country. And that will involve increasing pensions and welfare rates, reducing childcare costs.
“But it also needs to involve giving people who are working hard, who are paying for everything through their taxes to give them a break and to allow them to hold on to a little bit more of the income that they earn.”