No dissent in FF as gravity of crisis forces united front
FIANNA Fail TDs last night said they stood by the Government's four-year recovery plan despite its proposals for tax increases and spending cuts.
A number of TDs said they were uncomfortable with the cut in the minimum wage from €8.65 to €7.65, but insisted the plan had to be implemented.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen gave party TDs and senators a briefing on the plan in Leinster House last night.
But it was indicated at last night's meeting that the dole would be cut in next month's Budget to make up for the minimum wage reduction.
Those present at the meeting said there were no dissenting voices on the plan since everyone realised how serious the situation was.
It followed on from a meeting on Tuesday night when the entire Fianna Fail parliamentary party -- except Cork South-Central's Noel O'Flynn -- passed a motion supporting the four- year plan.
Some deputies had warned state pensions should not be cut in the moves to stabilise the public finances and the indications were yesterday that their demands were met.
Meath East's Thomas Byrne last night said he was uncomfortable with the cut in the minimum wage, but claimed economic evidence showed it would get people back to work. He said the plan would be the centrepiece of the party's election campaign.
"We've published our plan and we'll be putting it before the people. It's up to others now to come up with an alternative."
He also said the rises in college registration fees and carbon taxes were not welcome but had to be implemented. "It has to be done to give hope to the people," he added.
Others said the painful measures contained in the plan just had to be accepted.
"Nobody likes tax increases but we have to live in the real world," Limerick TD Niall Collins said.
Mr Collins said he welcomed the "unbundling" of employment regulations which provide for extra payments for weekend or late-night working, which he claimed were having a major effect on businesses in areas like catering and hospitality.
"These were strangling small businesses and were a major barrier for employment," Mr Collins said. He added that the four-year programme made for good business planning, with major worldwide corporations taking similar approaches.
Clare TD Timmy Dooley said everyone in the parliamentary party realised how serious the situation was at the moment with the IMF and EU in Dublin.
"People are concerned about the minimum wage but I think it will be addressed in the Budget," Mr Dooley said. "It's about creating jobs. Everyone is aware that the situation is so serious now that these things just have to be done. There is a realisation we have to do this for the country. The world's media are at the door watching what's going on here."
Laois-Offaly's Sean Fleming said the measures in the plan had to be introduced. "We could be populist and go the other way but this has to be done," Mr Fleming said.
Even TDs who called for Taoiseach Brian Cowen to quit earlier this week supported the four-year plan.
"People are telling me the minimum wage is impeding job creation," rebel Dublin South-East TD Chris Andrews said. "And that's not spin, I believe them."
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the plan sent a "bold and courageous signal to the country and the world".