Opposition politicians meet with EU Commissioner
Representatives of Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein have been holding separate meetings with EU Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn today to discuss next month's Budget and the Government's €15bn four-year plan to reduce the deficit.
Caoimhghin O Caolain, Sinn Fein Dail leader, told the Commissioner to go back and tell Europe that Ireland cannot cut its budget deficit by 2014.
"I and my colleagues Deputy Arthur Morgan and Mary Lou McDonald this morning informed the European Commissioner Ollie Rehn that Sinn Fein will not be part of any consensus that seeks to cut €6bn from the economy next year hitting low earners and vital public services hardest," Mr O Caolain said.
"We informed Commissioner Rehn that the 2014 target for reducing the budget deficit to 3pc of GDP is completely unrealistic and unachievable."
Joan Burton, Labour party finance spokeswoman, said she told Mr Rehn her party backs the target of slashing the budget deficit to 3pc of the value of the economy by 2014.
"Our view is very much that while Ireland has responsibility to Europe and to the Eurozone, the European Union has responsibility towards Ireland," Ms Burton said.
"And, in particular, we wanted to let the Commissioner know that in our view there will be no economic recovery in Ireland unless the budgetary strategy also contains a strategy for growth and employment and job retention."
Ms Burton said the Commissioner did not have a date for the Government's four year plan to be published.
Mr Rehn also met Ibec, the business lobby group, which claimed enterprise remained resilient, diversified and well-positioned to drive recovery.
Danny McCoy, director general, told the Commissioner the scale of Irish business and its capacity to drive the recovery is under-appreciated.
"Ireland has a strong enterprise base and doesn't face the same need for fundamental structural reform as other economies but it essential that we maintain a strong incentive to work," Mr McCoy said.
"We have a lot more to do to restore our economic fortunes, but significant progress has been made."