Tánaiste warns against quick fixes


The old political prescriptions will not work to resolve Ireland's current economic problems because the crisis was too deep, Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said this afternoon.

Addressing his parliamentary party at its annual think-ins, which is taking place at Tullow, Co Carlow, Mr Gilmore said a long-term view was needed.

"No incoming Government has ever inherited a mess of the type and nature that we did. When we took over Government, the country had lost its economic sovereignty and was already in an IMF programme.

"No-one would lend money to Ireland. The Irish banks were on life support, and there was no clarity about their future. Unemployment had reached new heights. There was near despair at home, and Ireland’s reputation internationally was in shreds. And, to add to that, there was a severe debt crisis in the euro area.

"That is the crisis we inherited. It is, quite simply, without precedent. And because it is without precedent there is no template for us to follow. There is no ‘off-the-shelf’ formula that we can apply," Mr Gilmore said.

"No previous Irish Government has faced similar circumstances. The Labour Party hasn’t done so, nor have our sister parties in Europe. We are pioneers in a new place," he said.

"If Ireland is to be the first country to emerge successfully from an IMF programme, then the present Irish Government will be the first Government in Europe to achieve that, and Labour will be the first social democratic party in Europe with responsibility for achieving that goal.

"No Government wants to have to cut spending and increase revenue. But it has to be done, for the sake of our country, and for the next generation. In making those hard decisions, this Government will level with people. We will say, yes, it is going to be difficult, but we are going to get on with it."

Addressing the parliamentary party, Mr Gilmore said the party would drive reform in Government.

"These are positive signs, but they are only the beginning," Mr Gilmore said. "We have a long road yet to travel, but we have taken the first steps in the right direction."

Mr Gilmore said Minister for Social Protection Minister Joan Burton would be pressing ahead with welfare reform, but stressed the most vulnerable in society would be looked after.

"For all that we are living through difficult times, we must always maintain a threshold of decency," he said. The Tánaiste said action must be taken to tackle the mortgage crisis, but he again ruled out blanket debt forgiveness.

"We want to ensure that the banks, in a fair and consistent manner, work with families who have run into difficulties, that the banks make a genuine effort to do their bit, where a mortgage holder does theirs. But this will all have to be done on a case-by-case basis."

Mr Gilmore said that despite the tough decisions Labour must not lose sight of its values. "Now, more than ever, we must look to our values, and find ways to put them into effect," he said.

"Our values of solidarity, of community, of responsibility, of fairness and of expanding the horizons of all our citizens."

Speaking to reporters earlier, Mr Gilmore defended Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s criticisms of the Vatican in his speech to the Dáil on July 20th about the Cloyne Report on child abuse. Commenting on the document issued by the Vatican at the weekend, he said: “I think in many respects it probably misses the point.

“The point here, as far as the Government is concerned, is that the issue that we want addressed is the welfare of children and the protection of children. There was the most horrific sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clerics. The Catholic Church did not deal with that as it should have dealt with [it].”

The Vatican had described as “unfounded” the Taoiseach's claim in the Dáil that it attempted to frustrate an inquiry into abuse “as little as three years ago”.

Asked if the Government stood over the Taoiseach’s claim that the Vatican tried to undermine an inquiry by the State, Mr Gilmore said: “Yes, the Government does stand over what the Taoiseach said in the Dáil. When the Taoiseach spoke in the Dáil, the Taoiseach was speaking for the Government, and he was speaking, I believe, for the people of this country.

"The abuse of children is not acceptable. The abuse of children is intolerable. And those who didn’t act, didn’t discharge their responsibility to make sure that it stopped or that those who were responsible for it were brought to book, they have a case to answer, and the Government makes no apology for stating that in the unambiguous terms that it was stated by the Taoiseach."

Mr Gilmore, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, rejected media suggestions that Cabinet colleagues considered him indecisive and insufficiently assertive: "We are not going to be distracted by that kind of tittle-tattle."

The Labour meeting, which continues tomorrow, comes at a time when Labour has its largest parliamentary party in its history - with 37 TDs, 12 Senators and three MEPs.

Additional reporting PA