Sunday 26 May 2019

Ahern stays silent on reckless spending

Fergus Black and Michael Brennan

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was staying silent last night over a damning report which revealed how his cabinet ignored key warnings over economic policies.

An independent review of the Department of Finance performance over the course of a decade revealed how repeated warnings to the government of the dangers of the budgetary policies pursued during the boom years were repeatedly ignored.

Mr Ahern, who was Taoiseach for 11 years, declined to comment on the report compiled by Canadian expert Rob Wright.

Initially, he said he had not read the review and would not comment until he did so. But last night a spokesman for Mr Ahern said he would be making no comment.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who was Minister for Finance from 2004 to 2008, when much of the excessive spending occurred, also did not comment publicly.

But his spokesman said the report had pointed out that Mr Cowen had brought the Department of Finance's recommendations to cabinet -- and cabinet had changed them.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which represents more than 830,000 workers, was forced into an embarrassing climbdown after accusing the independent review of attempting to blame social partnership for the economic crisis.

ICTU general secretary David Begg described the report's alleged comments as a "facile exercise in scapegoating" designed to obscure the true cause of the collapse -- the banks, builders and "toxic government policy".

He mounted a strong defence of social partnership, saying it had made a significant contribution to the economy in creating jobs and encouraging foreign direct investment.

However, the union chief was later forced to admit that he had not read the report when congress fired off its statement lashing the review.

"In fairness, if I had read the report we wouldn't have put out that statement," he said. He did not have any issues with the review.


Explaining why the ICTU condemnation had been made, he said they had been reacting to a press release from the Department of Finance which had been "inconsistent" with the contents of the report.

It later emerged that the press release had made no reference to social partnership and that the congress reaction had, in fact, been in response to a news report on RTE.

Mr Begg revealed that congress officials had met the report's authors when they were compiling their research.

"They never mentioned social partnership. I think an objective reading of the report shows that it (social partnership) is not an issue," he said.

Irish Independent

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