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I almost called in the IMF -- Dukes

FORMER Finance Minister Alan Dukes yesterday revealed he was on the verge of calling the IMF into Ireland in the early 1980s.

Mr Dukes was told at the time he could decide to bring the IMF in without asking the rest of the Cabinet, and he seriously considered it. However, he eventually dismissed the idea as "too drastic a step".

And yesterday Mr Dukes, who was finance minister between 1982 and 1986, admitted that "the minister for finance who actually did that without consulting the rest would find himself, or herself, as an ex-minister of Government fairly quickly".

Mr Dukes was speaking yesterday 25 years after his Tallaght Strategy announcement.

He told students at the political forum at the Institute of Technology, Tallaght, the strategy was helped by some unlikely editing from RTE.

Tradition

All those years ago, during a speech to Tallaght Chamber of Commerce, Mr Dukes as Fine Gael leader broke with the tradition of opposition politics and announced he planned to support the public spending cuts proposed by the Fianna Fail government of the time.

He explained yesterday that the speech was met with "total silence" by those present. They recognised that his plans were "a bit unusual", although he received a round of applause at the very end.

However, he claimed, that when it was shown on 'RTE News', "they had excerpts from the speech and they interspersed the excerpts with rounds of applause. That's what a good editor can do".

When contacted by the Irish Independent, RTE last night said it could not verify Mr Duke's recollection without the original unedited footage.

A spokeswoman said the station did not have radio news records from 25 years ago but that its TV report had featured only one segment of applause.

Mr Dukes, a former economist, also revealed he spent four months writing the speech.

He said he deliberately timed it for mid-September to ensure maximum publicity, which would trigger a debate on the direction of public policy.

His unusual stance was criticised by many in the Fine Gael party who felt it denied them a chance to oust the Government over its savage spending cuts.

But Mr Dukes said he was adamant and told his colleagues: "I refuse to preside over an opposition that pulls down the Government for not spending enough money and then comes into Government and says it has to spend even less money than the previous crowd."

The move proved disastrous for his career -- he was ousted as leader the following year.

Editorial Comment

Irish Independent