FG and FF failed to make submissions to State commission on tax and welfare

Proposals received cool reception from Ministers while Tánaiste dismissed some as being ‘straight out of Sinn Féin manifesto’

Neither of the larger Coalition parties made submissions to the State’s commission on tax and welfare, which later saw some of its recommendations criticised by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

The Fine Gael leader said a number of the recommendations by the commission, which was convened by the Government in April 2021, were “straight out of the Sinn Féin manifesto”.

However, neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil made submissions to the commission, which invited responses in consultation from all members of civil society and the wider public.

The Green Party, which is also in Government, did make a submission, authored by its finance spokeswoman Neasa Hourigan. She is currently outside the parliamentary party after voting against the Government on a motion to do with ownership of the planned new national maternity hospital.

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Other political parties that made submissions included the Labour Party and the Social Democrats.

The commission recommended increasing taxes on wealth rather than income, including hikes in capital acquisitions taxes — which is levied on inheritance.

After Mr Varadkar’s comments, a member of the expert group said he was “stunned” and “very disappointed”. John-Mark McCafferty said the comments were “very unhelpful” and could set a precedent for how politicians handle the recommendations of commissions. “I think the comments were dismissive and think they politicise and I think they were inappropriate,” Mr McCafferty said earlier this month.

Last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he disagrees with the comments made by the Fine Gael leader and said the report’s many diverse recommendations needed to be examined “in the round”.

A spokeswoman for Fine Gael said that the party’s views on taxation “are set out in the 2020 manifesto and carried through in the programme for Government”.

A spokeswoman for Fianna Fáil said that the commission was “tasked by the Government to independently consider how best the taxation and welfare systems can support economic activity and promote increased employment and prosperity in Ireland.

“It wouldn’t be unusual for a Government party not to make a submission to a commission so that they can remain objective.”

The Green Party submission argued for a universal basic income system for all residents of Ireland by 2024 — which is within the lifetime of this Government. The payment would operate in conjunction with a scheme of top up payments and would aim to provide recipients with a basic living wage “lifting a significant proportion of the current 15.7 per cent of the population estimated to be at risk of living in poverty out of that state”. It argued that Ireland “must begin the process of decoupling social function from employment” and that a universal basic income would be an important part of that. It would be paid to all legal, permanent residents of the state.

The programme for Government commits the Coalition to requesting the low pay commission to examine the concept of a UBI.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times