Programme for Government criticised by Opposition parties


The Labour TD, Mr Pat Rabbitte, last night said the Programme for Government might prove to be more significant for what was left out of it, rather than what was in it.

"Astonishingly, the promise made by Bertie Ahern to end hospital waiting lists permanently within two years appears to have been abandoned, with no mention of it in the programme. This promise was made on May 6th and it must be a record - even for Fianna Fáil - to have reneged on such a major commitment within a month," he said last night.

There was no reaction from Fine Gael to the programme. Deputy party whip Mr Simon Coveney said this situation merely proved the point that the party needed a new leader as soon as possible. "It would be impossible for us to have a meaningful statement on this without a leader."

The Sinn Féin Dáil leader, Mr Caoimghin Ó Caoláin, said the programme looked set to continue the outgoing government's legacy of inequality. "It seems that Fianna Fáil's pre-election promise to end hospital waiting lists in two years was just that - a false promise which they do not even consider worth repeating in this document."

Green Party leader, Mr Trevor Sargent, described the programme as a recipe for greater unsustainability and inequity.

"Given the cosy relationship of this ongoing Fianna Fáil and PD coalition, the country may have stability but it is the stability of a deranged driver, driving Ireland over a cliff rather than the stability of a sustainable work plan."

Mr Rabbitte said the Programme for Government was devoid of vision or imagination. "Many of the commitments are vague and unspecific, with few deadlines."

The section dealing with the proposed national stadium, he said, was a classic fudge. "Claims made by the PDs of a victory on this issue seem to have been as exaggerated as the name calling engaged in by Michael McDowell who now seems to have no difficulty serving in a cabinet led by the man who dreamed up the Ceaucescu era project."

In its first budget after the last election, he said, the Fianna Fáil/PD government halved the rate of capital gains tax, which provided a huge windfall for speculators. "It says much about the priorities of the two parties that all they can offer the low paid is a promise that those on the minimum wage just might be taken out of the tax net in five years time."

"Unlike the Programme for Government put together in 1997, this programme contains no commitment to running a current budget surplus and provides no figures for any increase in government spending."