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Saturday 24 February 2018

Gilmore says he'll only produce cuts plan if there is an election

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

LABOUR leader Eamon Gilmore has insisted he will not produce an alternative four-year plan to tackle the deficit when the Government produces its 'super Budget' next month.

And the only area where Mr Gilmore could say he will cut spending is through "reform" of social welfare administration, without cutting payments. But he again refused to outline how much it will save.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's spectacular U-turn on cross party talks -- inviting Mr Gilmore and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to discuss how to reduce the deficit -- has piled pressure on Labour to outline where it will tax and cut.

Mr Gilmore reluctantly agreed to take part in the talks but was dismissive of efforts to seek "some kind of phoney consensus".

Mr Kenny has also said he will participate in the talks, and has shown more enthusiasm for the move.

While Fine Gael is open to producing an alternative four- year plan, Mr Gilmore instead called for an election -- but denied he was taking a populist approach.

Labour will bring forward proposals once it has examined information provided by the Department of Finance, he said last night.

"It is unrealistic for anyone to have an expectation that these talks are going to lead to some kind of consensus on the Budget," Mr Gilmore said. "First of all, the Taoiseach himself doesn't see consensus being reached on the Budget for 2011."

When asked if Labour will outline a four-year plan, he indicated that such proposals would only be introduced if there is an election.

"We will produce our strategy for the lifetime of a government about how economic recovery can be brought about and obviously Budget plans will be part of that," he said.

Mr Gilmore's evasiveness on the issue comes after months of pleading to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to open the books in his department -- but the Labour leader now says it is impossible to have a four-year plan without a mandate.

He claimed he would increase tax revenues by abolishing property tax reliefs -- which, he said, would yield €1bn -- as well as introducing a water charge and a third rate of income tax for those earning over €100,000. But he said the best way to reduce social welfare spending and fix the economy is to create jobs.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach insisted he was not offended that the Green Party first approached Mr Lenihan about cross-party talks plan before consulting him.

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan spoke to Mr Lenihan before the Greens publicly called for a consensus approach to sorting out the public finances last Thursday.

Mr Cowen only learned about it through the media on Friday morning. He insisted nobody in the Green Party had asked him to write to Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore inviting them to talks.

"I wasn't offended at all," Mr Cowen said.

Realities

"The circumstance there was Eamon and Brian had a chat after a Cabinet meeting, it wasn't discussed at Cabinet. They were discussing this passing by after a meeting.

"I welcome constructive approaches. I think, ideally, it would be great if everything could be agreed. I also recognise, of course, some political realities that there are political differences between us in some respects, but the overall national interest meant we should and could meet in the right circumstances."

Mr Cowen said Sinn Fein was not invited to the talks because it did not agree that the deficit had to brought down to 3pc by 2014, as demanded by the EU.

SIPTU president Jack O'Connor warned that recovery would not be achieved by cutting, adding:"If a consensus could be built around a fair plan that has a reasonable prospect of working, we should support it."

Irish Independent

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