Tánaiste says Labour paying for decisions that ‘saved State’
Gilmore does not agree that party will suffer collateral damage at the next election
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore: “I don’t believe that when people come to mark their ballot paper in 2016 they will reward the party that got us into the crisis, Fianna Fáil, and punish the party that got us out of it, the Labour Party.” Photograph: Eric Luke
The Labour Party has suffered a disproportionate share of the flack for the difficult decisions taken by the Government and internal critics must share some of the blame for that, according to Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.
Speaking on the eve of the Labour Party annual conference in Killarney which begins tonight, Mr Gilmore conceded that being in government during the crisis had been very difficult for the party.
“I think we have attracted probably a disproportionate share of the flak for the difficult decisions the Government has had to take over the past three years. I think some of that may have been due to the defections and criticism of the party coming not from the Opposition but, as the public would see it, from people within our own fold. I think that has been very damaging,” he said.
Mr Gilmore added that party members and the overwhelming majority of the parliamentary party, its public representatives, had been remarkably courageous in staying with what has had to be done.
“They have known and understood that very difficult and very tough decisions had to be taken in order to save the country from ruin. Some of those decisions were particularly difficult for the Labour Party but I think now that we are seeing that those decisions are bringing about the desired results like the exit from the bailout and employment being created. I think we are now in a space where we can start to look forward and look at what needs to be done in the period ahead.”
Mr Gilmore said that when Labour went into Government at the beginning of 2011 the State was on the brink of failure. “We had two big objectives. One was to renegotiate the terms of the bailout and then exit it. We have done that. The second was to create jobs because we have always argued that the recovery would have to be grounded in a growing economy and one that was generating employment and we are doing that.”
He said latest figures showing a 3.2 per cent increase in employment showed that the country was on the right path. “To have moved from a situation prior to the election where 7,000 jobs would be lost every month to one where 5,000 net jobs a month would be created is a very dramatic turnaround.
“We have to continue that momentum and the focus in 2014 will be to continue to attract the investment to grow exports and to encourage in every way we can increased employment.”
Mr Gilmore strongly rejects views from critics who say that he opted for the wrong job in Government as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, saying that engaging in “economic diplomacy” was a key part of restoring the country’s reputation and was crucial for economic recovery.
He said that restoring the confidence of EU institutions and other EU member states in the Irish Government was one aspect of the challenge and persuading the international financial press that Ireland was a good country in which to invest was another.