Kenny: I'll need 10 years to fix economy
Refuses to detail his cuts plan
FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny last night dramatically began his general election campaign by claiming he would need 10 years in power to repair the economy -- even before his party has won a single vote.
Despite ongoing questions over his leadership, the Fine Gael leader told the Irish Independent he would go to voters with an economic and public-service reform plan based on being in office for two full terms.
But by talking about 10 years in power, he risks being seen as overly cocky by the electorate.
And he wouldn't give examples of the painful measures that would have to be imposed -- apart from the introduction of water charges.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny admitted there was "no pain-free way" to restore the public finances.
He ruled out tax hikes, yet could not state where his party would find the money to balance the books.
And he admitted his party did not have a policy on property tax.
However, he was attempting to contrast what he described as his party's forward-planning with the Government's struggles and apparent lack of vision.
He said water charges would definitely be implemented under a Fine Gael-led government, once water meters were introduced.
Mr Kenny's admission that his party would need 10 years to fix the economy came as Taoiseach Brian Cowen attempted to quell the growing dissent within Fianna Fail as the Government faces into another crucial three-month fight for survival.
"What I am at here in putting the party on an election footing is to say that this is not just about, sort of, stumbling across the line," Mr Kenny told the Irish Independent.
"It is to set a 10-year programme to restore soundness to Ireland's finances, and to set out a programme of how you provide services that can really stand up to best level now -- be it in education, the public service, the whole health system, all that potential that exists in terms of infrastructure. And you cannot and won't do that in five years. We will be setting out a 10-year programme," he added.
Mr Kenny was embarrassingly caught out on the issue of water charges earlier this year, when he could not say what his party's policy was.
But he insisted Fine Gael would introduce charges once water meters were installed in homes across the country.
"There is a lot of potential employment in that. You would introduce a charge for water after you have meters installed and you give them an allowance and above that they pay. That's realistic," he said.
"We haven't formed a view on property tax," he added.
Mr Kenny said his party would propose cutting the €3bn needed from this year's budget from current spending, without raising taxes or cutting capital expenditure.
"As a general principle we have said we don't see the way forward as increasing taxes. We have said do it on current spending, go back to what we have lost in this country, which is competitiveness and export growth, where there is now serious potential," he said.
Mr Kenny believes the public will support cutbacks -- provided they are told the truth about the scale of the problem and there is fairness.
"What the people want is that the position would be sorted out. Irish people are more than pragmatic. If the truth of the scale of the problem be told to them openly and that you set out your agenda clearly and decisively as to how you would sort it out, they'll participate in helping to deal with that, provided they see that it's fair," he said.
"We do not have the Government books at our disposal and in good faith we will set out what we believe are the real solutions that need to be implemented," he added.
Mr Kenny said his party's projections were based on the facts available to them, but admitted they may have to change on getting into office.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday dismissed suggestions of an early general election and insisted the Coalition would see out its term.