FINE Gael was last night accused of "cynical politics" after it admitted up to €1bn in new borrowings will be needed to cover up to 30,000 public sector redundancies.
Party leader Enda Kenny yesterday admitted for the first time that plans to lay-off 10pc of workers in the public service would cost between €800m and €1bn in severance payments.
Fine Gael described the bill for the voluntary redundancy scheme as a once-off cost and said it would be off-set by up to €10bn in savings over five years.
While Fianna Fail has committed to 12,000 redundancies in the public service, Fine Gael has gone further and called for an additional 18,000 voluntary redundancies.
That brings Fine Gael's total to 30,000 through normal retirements and voluntary redundancies in back-office services.
The party said the voluntary redundancy plan would cost "somewhere between €800m and €1bn" because the HSE's recent redundancy scheme for 5,000 staff cost €400m. And it insisted there would be no compulsory redundancies.
But Fianna Fail's Sean Fleming last night claimed it was a "forced confession" from Mr Kenny on the redundancy costs which exposed the party's "cynical campaign of election gimmicks".
Mr Fleming said that when Mr Kenny was previously asked about the costs involved, he had "no idea" about the figures involved.
"Under pressure he has admitted it will cost up to €1bn in new borrowing," Mr Fleming said.
"Allied with their escalating personal attacks on Micheal Martin, it's now clear that Fine Gael is running a campaign full of the worst type of cynical politics," he added.
At the party's daily press conference yesterday morning, Mr Kenny initially said he was reluctant to give an "absolute figure" on the costs.
But he then went on to concede the "ballpark figure" would put the bill as high as €1bn in redundancy payments.
When asked how Fine Gael would cover the costs of the redundancy scheme, Mr Kenny conceded: "That money's got to be borrowed."
However, he vowed frontline services would be protected if Fine Gael was elected to government. Instead, it will target 4,500 administrators every year for the next four years for voluntary redundancy.
Fine Gael enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton said the party was determined to protect frontline services in the public sector provided by doctors, nurses, teachers, gardai and local authority workers.
"The extra 18,000 reduction in numbers being proposed by Fine Gael through voluntary redundancy is focused entirely on back-office personnel," Mr Bruton said.
"The reality is quite stark: if we do not make savings in our public sector, then all staff will end up with their pay being hit or their taxes being hiked. We simply cannot go on with the system the way it is."