Fine Gael TDs accuse Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien of going it alone over the concrete levy

Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien was accused at a private Fine Gael meeting of going it alone on the concrete levy and breaching the government programme.

The meeting of Parliament party Fine Gael on Wednesday heard heavy criticism of Mr O’Brien and Fianna Fáil for continuing what a source described as a “solo run” after the housing minister reportedly told Fianna Fáil TDs at a meeting on Tuesday had that the levy would not proceed as planned.

There has been strong opposition from coalition TDs to the proposed levy on concrete, to be used to fund the multi-billion euro mica redress scheme, since it was announced in last month’s budget.

The source at the Fine Gael meeting said TDs and senators who spoke were angered by reports that the levy, which is due to be introduced next April, is now being suspended.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan accused Mr O’Brien of breaching the coalition agreement by voluntarily offering Treasury Secretary Paschal Donohoe’s view of a new tax announced in the budget and signaling to his Fianna Fáil colleagues that the levy was parked would.

Mr Phelan is reported to have told colleagues that “the policy here is lazy from a Fine Gael perspective”. A source at the meeting also noted that this happened while Mr. Donohoe was in the US on government business.

Several TDs raised concerns about the impact of the levy on Fine Gael support and called for changes that would exclude one-off homes from the new tax.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is understood to have insisted that while there has never been a good time for a new tax, it is not credible that the redress scheme would be paid from general taxation without any levy from the industry.

Among those who expressed general concerns about the levy were Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farell, who said the party must be careful not to delve into the issue.

Former Agriculture Secretary Michael Creed said the levy undermined the budget’s positive messages.

Fine Gael Senators John Cummins and Tim Lombard warned of the impact on the cost of homes and the agribusiness respectively, with Mr Cummins saying excluding homes would allay some concerns.

Clare TD Joe Carey said he hoped the concerns raised by Fine Gael would be included in the finance bill which Mr Varadkar said would be put before Cabinet next Tuesday.

The debate on the specific levy came ahead of a broader internal party discussion on housing, at which Minister of State at the Housing Department, Peter Burke, gave a presentation on the subject.

Elsewhere, Senator Jerry Buttimer said the party was being “killed” over BusConnects’ proposals for Cork and warned that party members could “apocalypse” over plans to overhaul the city’s bus network. Fine Gael TDs accuse Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien of going it alone over the concrete levy

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