herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Bruton left out in cold for Budget crisis talks

SURPRISE: FG chiefs deny snub after botched leadership bid

FINE GAEL financial guru Richard Bruton missed his party's briefing at the Department of Finance because it was outside his new remit.

The Opposition party has said that there was nothing suspect about the fact that Mr Bruton was not part of the five-man team that marched up Merrion Street on Monday.

The group, led by finance spokesperson Michael Noonan, spent over three hours talking with officials and getting a detailed look at the country's books.

But there was some surprise that Mr Bruton, who formulated much of the party's economic policy, was absent. He was dumped from the finance portfolio to enterprise, jobs and economic planning after his botched attempt at taking the party leadership from Enda Kenny.



Conspiracy

However, Mr Bruton is still considered to one of Fine Gael's greatest assets in relation to getting its economic issues and is regularly pushed to the front when discussion them in public.

A spokesperson denied that his absence was anything close to a snub.

"It's very straightforward," he said. "It was just the finance team that went on. The Fine Gael finance team is led by spokesperson Michael Noonan and his two deputies Brian Hayes and Damien English as well as Senator Liam Twomey."

Asked about the possibility of conspiracy theories, the spokesman said there was "none whatsoever".

Tensions in Fine Gael have been running high since the heave attempt last June but working relationships have been restored in recent weeks.

There had been rumours of a local uprising in the wake of recent opinion polls which showed Labour to be surging ahead at FG's expense. However, it failed to materialise.

The Fine Gael finance team was joined for the unprecedented briefing by its economics policy expert Andrew McDowell. Afterwards, Mr Noonan gave a stark warning that the country's finances were much worse than previous predicted.

It is now expected that cutbacks of €10bn to €15bn will be needed before 2014.

This will mean a series of four savage Budgets that will hit every sector of society.

"The figures themselves are like the foundation of a building. They're under the ground and that's where they should be, but it's what's above the ground is the important thing," Mr Noonan said.

Labour's Joan Burton was the sole public representative from her party to attend the meeting with secretary-general of the department Kevin Cardiff.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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