Gilmore says 'the politics of promises is over'


LABOUR IN government would not be able to reverse the bank guarantee scheme, the terms of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) or previous budgets, party leader Eamon Gilmore said.

Mr Gilmore told party activists the upcoming general election would mark a new departure in Irish politics, and it would not be credible for politicians to campaign on promises of restoring cuts.

“If Labour comes into government in the spring we will not be able to press a button and rewind the 2011 budget. No more than we can reverse any of the past 13 Fianna Fáil budgets or the blanket bank guarantee or Nama.”

Speaking at a pre-budget seminar in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Gilmore said his party had opposed such Government decisions “not only because they were wrong, but also because they were irreversible”.

There might be things Labour could change if it was part of the next administration but they could only make one promise to voters: “That we will work, might and mane, every single day to get people back to work, and to get this country back on its feet.”

Mr Gilmore said the task facing the next government would be too great for his party to “promise to fix everything overnight” and it would take a “period of time” to return the economy to growth, create jobs and improve living standards.

“The politics of promises is over. It simply will not be credible for politicians to tour the country promising to reverse every cut or to deliver every local project.”

He said Labour would set out its budget proposals this week based on an adjustment of €4.5 billion. The measures would involve reductions in capital and current spending, as well as raising additional revenues. There would be “a clear emphasis on protecting the weakest and on protecting education.”

Mr Gilmore said the Government’s announced budgetary adjustment of €6 billion posed an “unacceptable risk” to the economy. Fine Gael also agreed with the €6 billion figure. “The whole reasoning behind the €6 billion figure was that it was meant to impress the markets in a battle that has been lost.”

The general election was “now only weeks away” and Labour was offering to lead the next government. “We know that there will be decisions that we have to take that will be deeply unpalatable.” The party’s “courage and resolve” would be tested.

Mr Gilmore said the four-year plan lacked a strategy to create jobs. “There is plenty of the same old stuff about the smart economy that is fast becoming a tired cliche. To most people the so-called ‘smart economy’ is meaningless because they know we can’t all work in IT or in a science lab”.

Ireland had “fundamental economic strengths”, technology was opening up new opportunities and competitive advantages needed to be built on. European solidarity had to be a “two-way street”, Mr Gilmore said, adding that the Government had to “find some backbone”. Bank bondholders must share some of the pain.

Meanwhile, Labour’s spokeswoman on finance Joan Burton told the forum her party had never advocated “burning bondholders” or “sovereign default”. However, there was “room for hard-headed negotiation to ensure appropriate burden sharing”.