Kenny leaves door open to support draconian Budget
FINE Gael may help to pass the crucial December 7 Budget -- if the Government cannot drum up enough support.
Party leader Enda Kenny last night left the door open to abstaining from, or even supporting, the draconian Budget so the Government doesn't collapse in the middle of crucial negotiations with the IMF.
Mr Kenny refused to definitively state what his party will do on December 7 -- signalling that Fine Gael is still weighing up its options and waiting to see if Fianna Fail and the Greens will have enough votes to get the Budget passed.
Getting the Budget passed on December 7 would keep EU leaders onside, help secure EU-IMF funding and also ensure Fine Gael can proceed to a general election without having to introduce their own alternative Budget.
It comes after European Commissioner Olli Rehn warned of the necessity to get the Budget passed as soon as possible for the sake of economic stability.
A multi-billion bailout from the EU and IMF is contingent on getting the Budget passed.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen has already contacted both Fine Gael and Labour to stress the importance of passing the December 7 Budget in the national interest.
Mr Kenny last night stressed his party had always and would always "stand by the country".
The Fine Gael leader was much more definitive when it came to the future of the Government's four-year plan, insisting his party would not be bound by its contents.
The target of reducing the deficit to 3pc by 2014 must be met but the means of meeting that target can be negotiated.
"We have been talking to the European Commission. I want to make it perfectly clear that any incoming Government is not bound by any individual policy decision in this document," Mr Kenny said.
But Mr Kenny was more coy and cautious when pressed repeatedly on what his party will do when it comes to the Budget vote in two weeks.
The Government has a majority of just three votes -- but two of these are reliant on independent TDs Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry who have signalled they may not vote for the Budget.
"I don't know what they (the Government) propose to do in their Budget and I'd like to see it. Would you vote for a package you haven't seen that you've had no input into? I don't think you would," Mr Kenny said.
Asked repeatedly what he might do on December 7, Mr Kenny deflected the issue and said a general election would have been best for the country, with a Budget being introduced by a new government.
The party's finance spokesman Michael Noonan claimed yesterday's four-year plan contained no jobs package and was "worryingly vague" on the banking crisis.
The plan was supposed to provide certainty and confidence to both international markets and to the Irish public but it did neither, Mr Noonan said.
And he claimed the international markets would find "little comfort" in the absence of any figures on the cost of the Government's banking policies and how they would affect the public finances.
But Mr Noonan stressed again that Fine Gael was fully committed to acting in the "national interest" when it came to solving the economic crisis.
And he reiterated his support for the target of reducing the deficit to 3pc by 2014 and to securing the €6bn in cutbacks in December.
Fine Gael communications spokesman Leo Varadkar said that he was opposed to the idea of reducing the minimum wage, particularly when there were no plans to reduce the salaries of some of the country's highest earners in the public service.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey last night hit out at Fine Gael's enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton for claiming the four-year plan was "unambitious".
The minister claimed Fine Gael's attacks were based only on "party political considerations".