Government still undecided on budget target - Gilmore

Labour leader feels State can meet its obligations without adjustment of €3.1 billion

Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 15:53

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has insisted the Government has not yet settled on a budgetary target but that he feels the State can meet its obligations without an adjustment of €3.1 billion.

Speaking at the Labour Party’s parliamentary party meeting in Enfield, Co Meath, Mr Gilmore said the Government was determined to meet its obligations and exit the bailout programme by the end of this year.

Asked if he was seeking a smaller reduction of some €2.5 billion, Mr Gilmore said: “We haven’t settled on any figure and we won’t be doing so until much closer to the budget.

“It has seemed to us for some time that is possible to meet the targets that we have to meet for this year’s budget without a €3.1 billion adjustment. What the final figure will be is something that will be discussed over the coming weeks and settled closer to budget day.”

Mr Gilmore and his deputy leader, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, both sought to play down reports of a challenge to his leadership.

Ms Burton said she and Mr Gilmore had a “very good” working relationship and that he had her support as party leader. Mr Gilmore said he and Ms Burton had an “excellent” relationship.

“I am happy and honoured to be in Government and I happy doing the job I am doing. I am happy supporting Eamon Gilmore,” she added.

On Labour’s standings in the polls, Mr Gilmore said he was not overly concerned. He said the last government had looked at the polls too closely and made “short term” decisions.

“In Government, the Labour Party is looking at ensuring this country recovers and...when a real election is held I think the Irish people will not, as some opinion polls appear to be suggesting, reward the party that got us into the crisis and punish the party that solved it,” he said.

On the budget, Ms Burton said the best way to ease pressure on her department was to get people back to work, with each 10,000 people who found work easing the burden on the social protection budget by €95 million.

She said no specific discussions had taken place on savings figures and that the October 2nd exchequer figures would be an important guide in the budgetary process.

“What I would personally would like to see is a lot of emphasis on getting extra people into employment. Getting people back to employment is critical in terms of the social welfare spend,” she said.

Dozens of Labour members have gathered at the Johnstown House Hotel for the parliamentary party meeting, during which there will be discussions on the budget, jobs, personal insolvency and election preparation. The meeting comes at the mid-point of the Coalition’s five year term.

In his opening address to delegates, Mr Gilmore said that “by any standards Labour has done a good job in Government”. He said the State had been rescued from crisis and that employment was growing.

No previous government had introduced reform across so many areas in such a short period of time, he said, pointing to reforms of lobbying rules, Freedom of Information, legislating for the X-Case and enshrining the rights of children in the Constitution.

Mr Gilmore urged his party colleagues to take on their critics and put the message out that Labour had tackled the crisis and was now focused on building for the future.

The party, he said, had put the country and the people first by providing “strong and stable government” and making difficult choices.

Labour had stood up and made the toght choices while “purveyors of fairytale economics” had gone in another direction.

On the budget, Mr Gilmore said Labour would not allow stability to be put at risk. However, he said the party would not allow recovery to be jeopardised either and that jobs should be at the top of the agenda. Mr Gilmore said there ought to be a focus on helping families and ensuring they found themselves in a position that was easier to manage.