Labour and Fine Gael clash on public deficit
FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny yesterday claimed that he would bring a swift end to the economic crisis by reducing the budgetary deficit as fast as possible.
Attacking the Labour Party, Mr Kenny said other parties wanted to delay the deficit reductions.
Mr Kenny added that the Irish people did not want to think that there would be "an interminable night".
However, Labour hit back by repeating its claim that there was a €5bn black hole in the Fine Gael budget plans.
The two potential partners in government also attacked each other on the issue of public sector reform.
Fine Gael favours bringing the deficit down to 3pc by 2014, while Labour wants to push the deadline for this out to 2016.
"Other parties may want to delay deficit reduction, to raise taxes, but that is not reasonable," Mr Kenny said at the launch of his party's manifesto yesterday.
"We can't delay because delay is too dangerous. It increases uncertainty, it kills that early chance for the economy to recover."
He said people wanted the economic crisis ended as quickly as could possibly be achieved.
"Irish people don't like to think that there's an interminable night in front of them in terms of this economic burden.
"If you say to most people, 'What is your choice, provided all things being equal, that it's as fair as can be done?' they will say, 'I'd much prefer to have it sooner, rather than extend it out for another number of years.'"
But Labour's Ruairi Quinn accused Fine Gael of hiding a €5bn black hole in its plans.
"Where are they going to bridge the gap between what they say they can save and what they say they're going to cut?" he asked.
Labour also took aim at Fine Gael's plans to shed 30,000 public sector jobs.
Roisin Shortall claimed that it would equate to the loss of two teachers in every school or one in six nurses.
After Mr Quinn warned that voters did not want a single-party government, Ms Shortall said Fine Gael would decimate public services if it was "not controlled" in government.
But Fine Gael's Richard Bruton hit back last night, accusing Labour of "pure distortion".
The enterprise spokesman said the attacks on his party's policies were a sign of "desperation" as Labour slid in the polls while Fine Gael surged ahead.
Fine Gael, he insisted, had pledged to undertake voluntary redundancies among "back-office staff" -- and not among frontline workers.