Cowen wants budget passed before general election


TAOISEACH'S SPEECH:THE DÁIL will be dissolved and a general election called once the budgetary process is complete in the new year, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said yesterday.

Mr Cowen denied he had been pushed into making the announcement by the Green Party, which yesterday called for an election to be held in the second half of January 2011.

“Nobody has pushed me into anything. What I am simply saying is that we are focused on an issue of great national importance. I’m saying that the biggest statement of confidence that can be given by this country at this time is to pass this budget,” Mr Cowen said.

“It is my intention at the conclusion of this budgetary process with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the new year to then seek a dissolution of Dáil Éireann and to enable the people to determine who should undertake the responsibilities of government in the challenging period ahead thereafter.”

Mr Cowen was speaking in Government Buildings, where he was flanked by Fianna Fáil Cabinet colleagues, following a meeting of the party’s Ministers. He said all of his colleagues had provided “full support”.

Mr Cowen described himself as a very open and collegiate person who dealt with his colleagues with respect.

He added: “This country’s interests at the moment go well beyond any personal considerations of me as Taoiseach or anyone else in the party or anyone else in any other party.”

Mr Cowen said Fianna Fáil was a democratic party and he was its democratically elected leader, as well as the Taoiseach of the country, and he wanted to continue with that job.

It was a matter for the party to decide who was the leader and there were processes in the party to deal with this issue.

He insisted he had not been asked to resign by colleagues.

Mr Cowen also insisted that he had the confidence of the Green Party.

Asked if he felt betrayed by the junior Coalition partner’s surprise move yesterday, Mr Cowen said: “That is not a word that is in my lexicon at all.”

He said he had spoken to Green Party leader John Gormley, who had clearly indicated the junior Coalition partner was prepared to support the Government’s work in the coming weeks and months, and the Government’s work would continue on that basis.

He said the Government would publish its four-year plan on Wednesday and present a budget to the Dáil on December 7th, as well as continuing discussions with the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The Government would also introduce the necessary resolutions and legislation to give definitive effect to the budgetary measures.

Mr Cowen said all members of the Dáil had a duty to meet the challenge of passing the budgetary measures given the uniquely serious circumstances facing the country.

He said the political and financial stability of the State required no less, and there would be a time for political accountability to the electorate.

It was “imperative” for the country that the budget was passed and it was also important in the interests of political stability.

“Any further delay in this matter would in fact weaken our country’s position.” Mr Cowen said the Government was focusing on the most important issue before the country, which was the need to pass the budget. The Government would not be deflected from its duty, he added.

Mr Cowen said there were occasions when the imperative of serving the national interest transcended other concerns, including party political and personal concerns, and this was one such occasion. “There is no confusion in what the Government’s position is,” he said.