'Frontline' must be protected - Kenny

Wed, Nov 4, 2009, 00:00

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny has said “frontline” jobs and services must be protected in next month’s budget and warned that Ireland cannot tax its way back to prosperity.

Mr Kenny said his party believed reform and the “cutting out of waste” was key, adding that Fine Gael broadly agreed with the Government’s target of €4 billion savings. “I think if it comes to a balance between job protection and job losses obviously the protection of frontline jobs and services are critical.”

Mr Kenny was speaking ahead of a series of meetings between his party’s “main economic spokespersons”, businesspeople and the newly-unemployed in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway “for starters”.

He said Richard Bruton would focus on banking and finance; Kieran O’Donnell would deal with regional development; Leo Varadkar with enterprise and job protection; and Simon Coveney with proposals for economic recovery; George Lee will chair the meetings. Mr Kenny will also attend.

“People want to get back to work and this party is taking this committee around the country over the next three weeks, and the output from those meetings will feed into the preparation for our perspective on the budget,” Mr Kenny said.

Asked for his view of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ proposal for a third tax rate aimed at higher earners, Mr Kenny said: “I don’t believe you can have a solution to this by increasing taxes . . . You will not tax your way back to prosperity.

“You have to deal with public reform, you have to deal with cutting out waste, you have to deal with ways of getting people back to work.”

Mr Bruton said the budget was potentially the most important in a generation and reform had to be its hallmark. “This budget can either prolong the recession or shorten it,” Mr Bruton said.

Meanwhile, two Labour front-bench members have disagreed on the proposed day of protest and subsequent strike action planned by trade unions this month.

Environment spokeswoman Joanna Tuffy has criticised her colleague and agriculture spokesman Seán Sherlock over his opposition to the day of action this Friday and the strike by public sector unions on November 24th.

In an interview with the Sunday Tribune, Mr Sherlock said he was “vehemently opposed” to the idea of a strike or national day of protest which would be “an affront to anybody who does not have a job”.

Ms Tuffy pointed out that the party’s head office had instructed Labour Oireachtas representatives and other Labour Party members to support the Ictu protest.

In her blog on the party website,labour.ie, Ms Tuffy wrote: “I disagree with my fellow Labour TD . . . It is in the interest of those without jobs that the Government is strongly challenged about its approach to [the] recession.”