Cowen goes on attack over economy

Wed, Jun 10, 2009, 01:00

TAOISEACH'S SPEECH:THE GOVERNMENT has valid authority so long as there is a majority in the Dáil to support it, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has insisted, describing the Opposition as “disingenuous and not very democratic” for suggesting otherwise.

Opening the two-day confidence debate, Mr Cowen insisted that, with a Dáil majority, the Government had valid authority “as in the case of any other Government”.

He claimed the Opposition were “opposing the prospect of sustainability of our public finances” if in principle they agree with the view that public finances must be restored but continue “to oppose in every respect”.

Mr Cowen accused the Opposition parties of “postponing and prolonging the prospect of recovery by reason of their political actions here”.

Fine Gael “is suggesting we should be spending less, the Labour Party is, on the other hand, suggesting we should be spending more. At the end of the day, we have brought forward a plan. We have brought forward proposals as to how we are going to get out of this problem.”

He also hit out at Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny who “comes into this House week in and week out saying that the banks are banjaxed and everything is banjaxed and that the whole country is going down the tubes”.

But Mr Cowen said that Ireland’s indebtedness would continue to be the third-lowest in the euro area even after next year, when it will rise to 59 per cent, from 41 per cent this year.

He acknowledged that “the policies we have had to pursue are not immediately popular. They are policies that require us to raise taxes and make savings in expenditure.”

However, he said that “the only statement we can make frankly to the people is that if we spend €60 billion and take in €40 billion, we have to change the dynamic”.

Referring to the €4 billion “adjustments this year and next, he said that most of it would be through spending cuts.

“Ultimately the confidence that can be placed in this Government will be on the basis of our preparedness to take decisions which bring short-term unpopularity but which, when we complete our mandate and growth is restored and jobs returned to the Irish economy, will cause people to look back at 2009 and 2010 and acknowledge that a Government was in place which was prepared to take decisions in the immediate term to make the adjustments which gave our economy and people the prospect of growth and jobs.” The economic adjustment Ireland was undertaking “is greater than that of any other government in Europe” and he warned that it “will continue on the basis of the plans which have been approved by the European Commission”.

Acknowledging the 11.8 per cent rate of unemployment, he said it was “clearly a matter for concern. The only way we can return jobs to our economy is by restoring growth.”

He stressed that “the only way we can restore growth is by making sure we continue with the public finance position outlined by the Minister for Finance in the supplementary budget”.