Cowen calls for economic 'sacrifices'


Taoiseach Brian Cowen tonight made what he described as a “rallying cry” contending that short-term sacrifice was needed to allow the economy emerge from recession by the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016.

Mr Cowen invoked the symbolically important commemoration several times during his speech to the AGM dinner of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in Dublin tonight, saying that this generation of Irish people should be prepared to “look beyond our self-interest” so as not to fail the next generation.

For the second-year running, Mr Cowen’s speech of 20 minutes to the audience of almost 500 was unscripted, rhetorical in nature, and impassioned in places.

At the conclusion he emphasised the need to have the country on the best possible economic footing so as not to fail those whose sacrifice led to the foundation of the State.

“Yes, we were a generation that lived at a time and place of prosperity but when challenged we looked to the future and looked beyond our own self interest and said that, yes, this is a country that is worth working for and building.

“Yes, we can say in 2016 when we get to O’Connell Street and look up at those men and women of idealism that gave us the chance to be the country we are that: ‘Yes, we did not fail our children but we did not fail our country either’,” he said.

During the course of the speech, the Taoiseach said the Government was determined to continue making difficult and painful decisions for the common good, had no interest in short-termism, and that its strategy remained to fulfil key medium-term goals.

He also strongly rejected the contention that the prosperity of the country was founded on construction alone, arguing that there were many other factors at play.

He said that some accepted that Ireland simply had a domestic demand that fuelled prosperity, that it was “construction per se and nothing else.”

He compared exports between 2000 and 2008, saying that they had doubled during those eight years, and said that the major multinationals that had invested in Ireland had still invested during 2008, during what he described as “the midst of a perfect storm” that brought concurrent crises in banking, finance and the economy.

“If that vote of confidence can be given, surely we can reciprocate ourselves and have confidence in other sectors of the economy that they can perform. That is what we have to do,” he said.

He said the country need a “can-do and win-win attitude” now more “We are going to come through it. Recessions end. The question is: are we in the best position that we can possibly be to pick up? Or are we going to prolong recession and defer opportunities because we were not prepared to take decisions that we know in our hearts of hearts that we had to take now?”