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Taoiseach hints at tax cuts for middle-income workers in Budget

Speaking in New York today, Leo Varadkar said: “The priority for me is that we reduce income tax and USC.”

He said in would be aimed in particular at middle-income workers.

It would mean that people get to keep more of the money they earn, he said, adding that despite reports, a new middle rate of tax, was “never something I’ve been pushing very hard.”

He warned that a Left Government would hit people in the pocket, a mantra likely to be heard more as an election draws closer, with Sinn Féin in the ascendant.

“I know there are some people in politics, particularly on the left, who believe that a tax cut is the Government giving you money. It’s not – a tax cut is the Government letting you keep more of the money you earn in just the first place,” Mr Varadkar said on a visit to the Irish Arts Centre in New York.

“That’s why I think it is important that at a time we can afford it, that we reduce income tax and USC, particularly for middle income workers – who are the ones that pay the most.

“I’d love to make some more progress on that in the forthcoming Budget,” he said. “We started reducing income tax and USC back in 2014.”

One-off payments of hundreds of euro for pensioners, families, carers, and people with disabilities

It was now the case that somebody earning €40,000 or more a year pays about €3,000 less in income tax and USC than somebody earning the same amount of money in 2014, he said.

“So we’ve made a big difference already. And that’s how much worse off you’d be under a left-wing Government, if we had one in Ireland.”

The Taoiseach also revealed he got his first death threat when we was serving as a councillor.

He was addressing the issue of politicians’ security, in the wake of vitriolic far-right protests on the first day of the Dáil’s return on Wednesday.

“The first was when I was a councillor, but there are death threats and death threats. There were two lately,” Mr Varadkar said, apparently referring to menaces from Northern Ireland loyalists.

The Taoiseach dismissed suggestions of a buffer zone around Leinster House and said he didn’t anticipate he or his party would make any particular suggestions. “The Garda Commissioner and his people are the ones most qualified to carry out a security assessment and determine what is what is appropriate,” he said.

“I think it is really important to get the balance right. The level of threat against politicians and our staff has gone up. There are increased security concerns, but I think whatever we do, it’s important we don’t go too far.

“One of the great things about Ireland is that our politicians don’t live in a security bubble, nor do our staff. And I just think it’s important that whatever is done should of course improve security for us and our staff. But we shouldn’t go too far.

“I see countries where, for security reasons, they make their parliaments, and even the whole area around their parliament, effectively a no-go area unless somebody has prior approval and has been checked by the police 48 hours beforehand.

“I think that would be over the top and in fairness, I don’t think anyone is really proposing it.”

Asked about RTÉ withholding documents relating to the contract of former director general Dee Forbes and the exit packages of top executives, the Taoiseach said: “I think RTÉ should provide that information if it can. But I do appreciate that there may be legal reasons, reasons why they can’t.”

He added: “I imagine they have legal advice. And of course if they breached the law or any confidentiality clause in doing so, they would then be open to a compensation claim and the cost of that will probably fall back on the taxpayer.

“So I think RTÉ needs to give any information that it can – but if it’s legally barred from doing so, I would understand why it can’t.”

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