Sunday 22 April 2018

Bailout depends on four-year savings plan, says Dempsey

The multibillion EU/IMF bailout is only secure if the Government pushes ahead with a drastic four-year savings plan despite calls for a snap election, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has said.

Mr Dempsey vowed the Cabinet would continue to finalise the €15bn road map to recovery, due to be published tomorrow.

The Transport Minister also called for co-operation across the political system after Taoiseach Brian Cowen defied demands for an election before Christmas.

He said the Opposition needs to put the country first, put aside politics and back the estimated €90bn bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe.

"The easiest thing for us to do at the moment is to walk away from this, to have an election, to allow somebody else to come in and wash our hands of the whole thing," said Mr Dempsey, whose constituency office in Trim, Co Meath, was targeted overnight by vandals who spray painted the word "traitor" and smashed windows.

"But that is not what we believe is the right thing to do," he added.

"We don't have the luxury of time in relation to this. We went, we asked for assistance, we were given that assistance on the basis that we were going to produce this four-year plan, that we were going to produce a budget and that budget would pass. If we can't do that then the assistance isn't there."

Last night, hours after the junior coalition Green Party called for a general election, an embattled Mr Cowen said he wanted to stay in power to pass the crucial €6bn savings in next month's budget.

Mr Cowen also called for solidarity on the 150-page four-year plan, which will contain significant reforms to the tax system, with new levies in property and water and cuts to social welfare.

It is being inspected by experts from the IMF and the European Commission.

The Taoiseach, who will dissolve the Dail in the new year, later rang Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore directly about the vital cuts, which will be the harshest in the history of the state, and offer access to officials in the Department of Finance.

Mr Dempsey said the purpose of the phone call was to inform the leaders the message from the European Central Bank was that any assistance was granted on the basis of the plan and budget.

But both parties again called for an immediate general election.

Fine Gael's deputy leader James Reilly said: "What`s the point in people preparing a four-year plan that they`re not going to preside over and they won`t be able to implement and that they haven`t consulted the people on?"

A Labour spokesman said it was in the best interest of the country for a new Government with the mandate of the people to make the needed adjustments.

The embattled Taoiseach was dumped into a political crisis to match the economic chaos less than 24 hours after the Cabinet signed off on a multibillion IMF/EU bailout.

In a twist, Green leader John Gormley signed the Government's death notice on day one of delicate negotiations on the loans, calling for a date to be set in January for the election.

But Mr Cowen said it was not in Ireland's interests to go to the polls immediately.

He said the decision to continue leading the Government was sincere, honest and based on a well-informed belief.

Press Association

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