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Friday 13 December 2019

Economic growth predictions justified, insists Taoiseach

Taoiseach Brian Cowen today maintained the Government's predictions on economic growth were justified amid fears the financial black hole is deeper than expected.

Mr Cowen said forecasts from the Department of Finance for this year's budget were not wrong but were made prior to world events such as the Greek debt crisis.

As the main opposition leaders prepared to meet Mr Cowen on potential budget cuts, Labour chief Eamon Gilmore demanded he reveal the growth projections for the economy.

"Obviously such discussion has to be based on sound solid information which only the Government itself can provide," Mr Gilmore said.

"As we know the projections which the Government gave us last year for economic growth were seriously wrong."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Mr Gilmore will meet with Mr Cowen and Green Party leader John Gormley for round-table talks later this afternoon on the four-year plan for cuts.

Fine Gael claim confidential figures from the Department of Finance show the Government needs to make cuts of more than the €7.5bn over four years to restore the crippled finances.

In the Dail Mr Cowen said Government projections for 2010 were made prior to global events such as the Greek debt crisis.

"It's not that forecasts were wrong. The forecasts were justified on the basis of what was set out at the time," Mr Cowen said.

"There have been changes during the course of this year in world and European economy fundamentals."

Earlier, Mr Kenny demanded the Taoiseach confirm front line services in the health system will not be affected after Health Minister Mary Harney suggested cuts of up to a €1bn could be rolled out.

"I recognise that your Government have led this country into economic quicksands and you are going to have to make reductions across departments," the Fine Gael leader said.

"I'm asking you again, in the interests of the hundreds of thousands who are going to be affected by this ... can you give the people an assurance, that when that cut comes it will not affect frontline services, which I repeat, save lives."

Mr Cowen said patient safety was of the highest priority.

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