I would first like to assure the Deputy that all nurses and midwives are benefitting from the dismantling of the temporary Financial Emergency legislation under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement. This Agreement is delivering pay benefits of 2-2.5% per annum and will result in the restoration of salary rates up to €50,000 for all public servants (including nurses) by end 2019, while salary rates up to €70,000 (90% of public service) will be restored by end 2020. As a result all staff nurses will be fully restored by the end of this year.
The Rainy Day Fund is designed to increase the State's resilience to external shocks such as Brexit in order to act as a counter-cyclical buffer in the event of a particularly severe economic downturn.
To spend this on current expenditure would have the following effects:
Firstly we would have permanently increased expenditure and reduced our safety buffers at a time when our economy and our tax base is at risk from external shocks such as Brexit;
Secondly, with a balanced Budget and in the absence of new revenue raising measures, we would be reducing the amount of money available to recruit new staff;
Finally we would be potentially fuelling a wage inflation spiral, where increases in wages for one group results in higher demands from other groups both in the public service and the private sector.