Cuts essential, Cowen tells FF

 

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said today the State cannot continue borrowing €400 million a week and must start cutting costs so that economic growth can resume by 2011.

He told a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that it was their “patriotic responsibility” to rescue Ireland from the current economic crisis and said the only means of doing this was by cutting spending.

“We must cut our costs further so that we can compete for market share for our goods and services. That is the only way we can create new jobs and sustain existing ones,” the Taoiseach said.

Both party and country had to be willing to “take short-term pain for long-term gain” he added.

Measures being proposed by the Government were vital it ensure the “fiscal sovereignty”, according to Mr Cowen, adding that estimates from the Department of Finance suggested the economy should return to growth in 2011.

“Our job as politicians, as legislators, as civic leaders, is to try and cut a path through the fog of negativity that is drowning out every voice of reason in this country,” he said.

“To those who accuse me or any of my colleagues in this party or this Government of bailing out bankers, punishing the poor, protecting the rich or selling out our sovereignty - that it’s time to stop playing politics with the future of the Irish people,” Mr Cowen said.

“If we take the correct policy choices, we can beat this recession.” Insisting the public had to be persuaded to “bite the bullet now” instead of putting off painful cutbacks, Mr Cowen repeatedly warned the next Budget would contain tough but necessary measures.

“I want to be honest with you. I know I’ve not got everything right. No leader ever does,” he added.

Mr Cowen said the mood within the party remained determined, despite recent opinion polls putting Fianna Fáil’s popularity at an historic low.

“We are very determined in the coming months to set a direction for the country which is absolutely necessary,” he said.

Mr Cowen said his party was “very anxious” to press ahead with the Lisbon Treaty campaign, the setting up of Nama and drawing up of a new Budget.

Responding to reported remarks from Minister for Tourism Martin Cullen, apparently defending the €60 million purchase of electronic voting machines, the Taoiseach said: “We will move on and learn the lessons from the past.”

Earlier today around 200 farmers attempted to gain entrance to the meeting in the Hodson Bay Hotel in Athlone.

Gardaí were forced to block access to the hotel outside Athlone from the farmers who were demonstrating over cuts to agricultural schemes.

The protesters surged forward as Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan arrived at the venue, knocking down security fences in the process as they pushed towards the entrance of the Hudson Bay Hotel.

An IFA delegation led by president Pádraig Walshe leader was met with Mr Cowen, Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, and Government Chief Whip Pat Carey this afternoon.

Additional reporting PA