Government competent in its handling of crisis -- Cowen
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen insisted last night his Government had acted "competently" in dealing with the economic crisis -- despite speculation about an imminent EU bailout.
He was speaking after Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called on him to go to Aras an Uachtarain to hand his resignation into President Mary McAleese for having "politically betrayed" the country.
But in the Dail yesterday, Mr Cowen said his Government was doing everything in its power to deal with the "turbulence" in the financial markets, which has raised the cost of borrowing for the State to unaffordable levels.
"I don't accept for one moment that this Government has acted other than in the best interest of the country and competently in every respect dealing with a crisis of such magnitude," he said.
Mr Cowen said the State was funded until the end of next year but conceded that talks were ongoing with European finance ministers in an effort to "bring stability" to the financial markets.
And he confirmed for the first time that he had spoken by phone with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, last Friday, to tell him the State did not need a bailout.
"It is in all of our interests that we find a credible, efficient and above all workable solution that will provide assurance to the markets and thereby restore confidence and stability," he said.
Mr Cowen did not give a date for the publication of the Government's four-year economic plan, saying only progress had been made and it was hoped to publish it next week.
During Leaders' Questions in the Dail, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Mr Cowen had been given an opportunity to lead Ireland into a prosperous future but had failed.
He quoted former Taoiseach Sean Lemass (who Mr Cowen has described as his hero) speaking about the task of consolidating our economic independence. And he went on to accuse Mr Cowen and his Government of having "politically betrayed" the country.
"This Government's gross inability to lead the country has resulted in the most shambolic mismanagement of the people's affairs since the foundation of the State," he said.
Mr Kenny criticised the Government for the "outright dishonesty" over the past week with minister after minister proclaiming that all was rosy in the garden.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the Government's credibility had been shot. He warned that the reality was that the country was "in bailout territory".
"There is a mood across the country that we are about to lose our economic independence if, in fact, we have not already done so," he said.
Meanwhile, the Government last night said it was aware of rumours that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission were the source of initial reports Ireland was to get a bailout.
The Taoiseach yesterday continued to complain about the speculation in the foreign and domestic press about bailout talks.
There is a widespread belief that those initial reports emanated from the ECB and the commission -- briefing the international media in a bid to force Ireland to take a bailout.
Responding to those rumours, a government spokesman said: "I wouldn't speculate . . . I have heard others (names) as well."
He added that he did not know who Mr Cowen was referring to when he said that some people would have liked to have Ireland apply for help from the European emergency fund.
Mr Cowen again attacked "so-called reputable news organisations" for reports about Ireland being involved in bailout talks.
The Government was again caught in the international media spotlight yesterday as it continued to take a battering in the spinning storm.
Word of Taoiseach Brian Cowen's bog-standard speech to the Dail last night, where he merely reiterated the Government's position on the banking crisis, prompted alerts on 24-hour news channels.
Mr Cowen's spokesman said it "didn't help matters" that the significance of a special debate, simply intended to give party leaders 10-minutes each to speak, was misinterpreted.
"It created an expectation," the spokesman said.
Comments by European Affairs Minister Dick Roche also caused a furore after a British TV journalist reported, during an interview, that he "thinks resolution will be tomorrow in the form of Irish bank bailout".
Within minutes, the journalist was clarifying the point, saying Mr Roche would "favour" a banking solution over a national bailout.