You are not responsible for crisis - Taoiseach tells country
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night warned that the Budget would be a first step on a long road to recovery for the "fragile" economy.
In a televised address to the nation -- the first from a Taoiseach in three decades -- he said he wanted to speak to the people directly about the challenges they faced.
And he warned the Budget would be "tough" and could not protect all those who were vulnerable.
In a sombre, low-key address he emphasised that we would all have to face the 'challenges' together.
"I would love to tell you tonight that our economic problems are solved, that the worst is over.
"But for far too many of you, that is simply not the truth," he said.
Mr Kenny's 13-minute speech was in dramatic contrast to the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who said that the "worst is over" and that the economy had "turned the corner" in the course of his Budget 2010 speech.
Mr Kenny also took a different tack to the previous administration's assertion that "we all partied". He clearly told the people that they were not responsible for the crisis -- and thanked them for their efforts so far.
"The improved confidence has helped strengthen exports -- a key driver of future success. But we have a long way to go," he said.
He spoke of the long-term nature of the challenges faced by the nation, but balanced this with attempts to inject some positivity and hope.
In one of his more dramatic moments, he said: "I want to be the Taoiseach who retrieves Ireland's economic sovereignty," he said.
Mr Kenny repeated word for word the pledge he made upon taking office last March -- that he would make Ireland the best small country in the world by 2016.
Mr Kenny also continually mentioned the importance of creating jobs in his speech.
But he stressed that the Government would not be able to create jobs overnight -- its official target of 100,000 new jobs by 2015 will not help all of the 440,000-plus people on the live register.
The Taoiseach said the economy was in deep crisis last year and remained in crisis today. His speech came as his Government was about to deliver its first Budget with €3.8bn of spending cuts and tax increases today and tomorrow.
Mr Kenny confirmed that income tax would not rise in the Budget but said other tough measures would have to be taken, because the State was spending €16bn per year more than it was taking in.
But he did not give away many new details of the Budget although he did reveal that the perks enjoyed by former Taoisigh such as Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were being scrapped.
Mr Kenny deliberately tried to target key voter groups by referring to business people who could not get credit, and parents who were worried about paying their mortgage.
And he finished on an optimistic note by saying that he believed that "we the Irish people can now make our way to recovery, to prosperity and to the fulfilment of the dreams of our children and the founding fathers of our nation".
Mr Kenny did not refer to Fianna Fail by name -- but he still heaped blame for the crisis on previous FF governments.
"We will reform how we run the country so that we never return to the practices that drove our economy into freefall -- reckless spending, weak oversight of banks and reliance on a property boom for tax revenues," he said.
Mr Kenny made several references to his coalition partners Labour in an attempt to show that his Government was united in its determination to tackle the economic "crisis".
Labour backbenchers are anxiously awaiting the prospect of their own representative, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, announcing €2.2bn of spending cuts in the first part of the Budget today.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan is going to announce the taxation measures in the Budget tomorrow.