herald

Thursday 19 October 2017

Cabinet gathers for crisis meeting after poll disaster

Verdict: Fianna Fail's support at all-time low of 18pc

THERE was a sense of the Last Supper about today's crisis Cabinet meeting at Farmleigh.

Government ministers met as another devastating poll put Fianna Fail a distant third among the country's most popular parties.

The meeting this evening for a pre-Budget session comes as the latest opinion poll showed Fianna Fail still in the doldrums.

Government ministers were gathering in Farmleigh House, with Sunday's Red C poll, putting Fianna Fail at 18pc, very much on their minds.

Today's brainstorming session is the first of two meetings where the Cabinet will begin to set out a four-year plan to reduce the country's Budget deficit to 3pc by 2014.

It takes place after renewed warnings that health, welfare and education will all face severe cuts.

Minister for Children Barry Andrews said painful decisions would be made on welfare payments and educational spending.

"It is going to be painful for people in receipt of welfare. It may have a detrimental effect on some of our educational provisions," he said.

If the Government is to keep to the target of bringing the deficit down to 10pc next year, €7bn in cuts and tax hikes will have to be found.

Some commentators are concerned such drastic reductions could kill off any hope of an economic recovery.

The Red C poll taken on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of last week was the first since the announcement of the final figures for the bank bailout.

Fianna Fail support was down six points to 18pc, the lowest rating the party has ever received in a Red C poll.

Fine Gael rose one point to 32pc, while Labour has regained the 4pc the party lost in last month's poll, to return to 27pc.

The Green Party, which will be crucial to agreeing a Budget in December, gained one point, rising to 4pc.

The Farmleigh gathering at 6pm today will be followed by an all-day meeting tomorrow to continue discussions on the scale of cutbacks.

One measure back on the agenda is a property tax, which would raise in the region of €1bn.

Water charges are thought to be off the agenda as it is seen as unworkable without a metering system in place.

Discussions on how to bring more low-paid workers into the tax base will also take place.

SEE PAGE 14

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