Monday 27 March 2017

Country not returning to dark days of mass exodus, says Cowen

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday denied the country is returning to dark days of emigration last seen in the 1950s and the 1980s.

Mr Cowen played down the official budgetary projection that 45,000 people will emigrate next year, saying some of it was down to foreign nationals heading home and some of it was "voluntary".

He denied that it was a sign that the country was returning to the mass emigration of the 1950s, when hundreds of thousands went to Britain to seek work, and the 1980s, when a generation of unemployed young Irish went to the US.

"No, we're not going back to those days. What we're talking about here is that we've many people who have come to Ireland over the past 10 years, some of whom are returning home because the job opportunities are no longer there which brought them here in the first place," he said.

Mr Cowen also said some of our own people were emigrating "voluntarily" and some were emigrating due to a lack of jobs -- with 443,000 people out of full-time work.

"This year I think we've around 65,000 who left and 30,000 who came in, so it's a flow of people coming and going and we're simply reflecting that in the projections we're making for the four-year plan," Mr Cowen said.

He pointed out that the country had recovered from the recession of the 1980s, when there were far higher interest rates, a far higher level of unemployment and an economy that had less diversity and foreign investment. After being asked if he accepted there was now an emigration problem again in the country, Mr Cowen said there was a need to get a "net employment situation" in Ireland.

"The only way we can do that is bring our public finances back into order," he said.

"That's how you get confidence and investment going again."

Cuts

Mr Cowen was speaking before the annual lunch of the Small Firms Association in the National Convention Centre in Dublin yesterday.

He also failed to clear up when exactly the Government plans to publish its four-year budgetary plan to cut €15bn.

Already, the Government is committed to slashing €6bn next year.

The Coalition appears unwilling to leave a gap of several weeks between the detailed plan and the announcement of the Budget as it will prompt TDs to be lobbied to reverse expected cuts.

The Donegal South-West by-election has added to the political sensitivities, with Fine Gael claiming the four-year plan won't be announced until after the vote.

The Taoiseach didn't deny the Government was putting off its four-year plan until after by-election.

Mr Cowen merely said that the plan would be published during November.

Although Mr Cowen said the Government was aiming to have the plan published in mid-November, he wouldn't say if this proposal had now changed.

"No, because we haven't made all the decisions," he said.

Irish Independent

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