Taoiseach says he considers minimum wage to be 'middle class'

Varadkar says the homelessness and housing crisis will not be solved in lifetime of this government

Taoiseach says he considers minimum wage to be 'middle class'

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, 17-7-2017. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

The Taoiseach says he considers some people on the minimum wage to be 'middle class.'

He made the comment in an interview with TV3's Vincent Browne, who hosts his final show on the station tonight.

Mr Varadkar included the lowest-paid workers when he was asked to define what he considered to be an average 'middle class' wage.

He also admitted that the crises in housing and health will not be solved in the lifetime of his Government – and gave clear indication he is considering a vacant homes tax.

Asked to explain his controversial “people who get up early in the morning” comment from his Fine Gael leadership campaign, the Taoiseach said it was “a metaphor of course” referring to two million people in Ireland.

“It is the middle class, it is middle Ireland,” he said. “People who feel they contribute a lot to society but don’t get much back.”

Mr Varadkar then included the lowest-paid workers when asked by Browne to define what he considered to be an average ‘middle class’ wage:

“It is between €35,000 and €40,000 so I would go much broader than that – I would include for example people who are on the minimum wage,” he said.

“People who work very hard but who would be earning less than that,” he said. “Over 70% of people describe themselves as middle class and middle Ireland is even broader again.”

Mr Varadkar said he has ambitious plans for his time as Taoiseach including a capital spending plan of approximately €80bn.

While admitting the housing and homelessness crisis will not be solved in the lifetime of his government, he strongly suggested he is considering a vacant homes tax.

“There are a lot of vacant properties in the country,” he said. “Some of them could be renovated and brought into use.”

“Some could be purchased and I think we need to impose penalties on people who leave hoses vacant in areas where there is very high demand for housing and those homes should be in use.”

Vincent Browne will host his final show this evening after a decade at the helm of the Tonight programme for TV3.