Opposition lays siege to Cowen on first day back
THE economic and banking crisis dominated the return of the Dail yesterday with the Taoiseach standing accused of "crushing the spirit" of the country.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen faced a grilling from opposition parties on his Anglo Irish Bank decisions and job creation policies, as the Dail returned after its summer recess of 12 weeks.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny claimed there was now "despair, confusion and fear" among the public because of the uncertainty surrounding government action.
The bank bailout was the "most catastrophic" decision in the history of the country, Mr Kenny claimed.
Wading in, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said an average of 320 jobs had been lost every day since Mr Cowen had become Taoiseach.
But the Taoiseach insisted that 300,000 jobs could be created over the next five years and pledged to unveil the final cost of the bailed-out Anglo Irish Bank today. He strongly hinted the final bill could come to somewhere in the region of €30bn, which would result in an additional annual interest payment on the national debt of €1.5bn.
Mr Cowen, who has endured a difficult few weeks following his infamous 'Morning Ireland' interview, also hit out at what he called the "populist games" being played by the Labour Party in order to win votes.
With Labour again opposing the banking guarantee last night, Mr Cowen claimed they were "winning out there" with stances that failed to recognise that the banks needed to be fixed in order to achieve economic growth.
"You'll (Mr Gilmore) get plenty of kudos for it. . . playing the old game and hoping you'll get a few votes out of it," Mr Cowen said.
Setting the tone for what is expected to be a tough and unpredictable Dail term, the opposition parties launched a blistering attack on the Government's record.
"There is despair, confusion and fear as a result of the uncertainty surrounding government action," Mr Kenny claimed.
He accused the Taoiseach of implementing policies that had "crushed the spirit of many of the people".
But Mr Cowen accused Fine Gael and Labour of an "exaggerated portrayal" of the state of the economy, which didn't help the spirit of the country.