Taoiseach faces confidence vote

 

The Dáil will debate a confidence motion in Taoiseach Brian Cowen next Tuesday, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has said.

She was responding to a Fine Gael motion of no confidence in Mr Cowen moved by party leader Enda Kenny, in the wake of the two reports into the causes of the banking crisis.

The reports concluded that home-made factors were responsible and not international financial volatility and Mr Kenny said the meltdown was “directly as a consequence of the person who was driving fiscal and economic policy for a number of years, namely deputy Brian Cowen when minister for finance, now Taoiseach”.

Mr Cowen tonight said he should perhaps have acted sooner to "take the heat out of the economy" during the period examined by the reports.

He said he did act to reduce the number of tax breaks and incentives on offer during his tenure as minister for finance and that he had been, at the time, described as measley by the same Opposition who now said he had blown the boom.

Mr Cowen told RTE Primetime that economic decisions at the time were based on advice from the ESRI and Central Bank.

He added that the Government had reduced the national debt and made significant infrastructural investments during the boom years.

Earlier, Mr Kenny said that if similar reports were produced for any major company, the chief executive officer would be dismissed forthwith.

He said: “There was a massive deception put forward by Brian Cowen in particular, this was Lehman Brothers this was the international tsunami. These two reports point out clearly what the truth is…that the Government is responsible for this homemade economic crisis.

“It’s not just talking about responsibility, it is about accepting it.“

Mr Kenny said the vote was not a foregone conclusion as there are many disenfranchised Fianna Fáil people and the motion would give the Greens a chance “to stand up and vote in accordance to what they said before” they were in Government.

“When I listened to Brian Lenihan this morning talking about the socio-political context in which this happened, that socio-political context was generated by Fianna Fáil in the Galway tent and was heightened by them in every occasion.”

“I want accountability and responsibility accepted and that’s why the motion of no confidence is down,” he added.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore insisted that under then Constitution the confidence motion should be debated immediately but Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk said it was in order to take it next week.

Earlier Mr Gilmore said the “irresponsible action” of Fianna Fáil had resulted in “people suffering in a very real way”.

He said the reports made “serious criticism of Government and of Mr Cowen in particular for his handling of the economy in the period leading up to the bank crisis”.

Mr Gilmore said motion of confidence in Mr Cowen will be a “watershed” moment for Fianna Fáil backbenchers who were not in cabinet at the time covered by the reports.

“They can’t go in and vote confidence in Mr Cowen and his cabinet and his government and then go back to their constituencies and distance themselves from that decision.”