Lenihan challenges opposition to reveal plans
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan last night threw down the gauntlet to the opposition by challenging them to clearly state how they would tackle the country's problems.
He told Fine Gael and Labour it was no longer good enough to criticise the Government without putting their own alternative plans forward for scrutiny.
And he pledged to "show them the books" before the December 7 Budget so they could not claim they were being kept in the dark.
Both Fine Gael and Labour have continually refused to state how they would cut a minimum of €3bn to balance the books.
The main opposition parties have used the excuse that they do not have access to the figures detailing the exact nature of the country's finances.
But Mr Lenihan called their bluff by vowing to open the doors of the Department of Finance to the opposition ahead of the Budget.
"Let's have no more of this 'we can't see the books, we'll have to wait and see the books'," Mr Lenihan said.
"I've heard that coming from opposition sources in recent weeks. They are more than welcome to come into the Department of Finance and look at all the books. I'm quite happy to make them all open to them."
In an interview with the Irish Independent on Monday, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny refused to detail what measures his party would take if they get into power.
He ruled out tax hikes, but could not state where his party would find the money to balance the books.
Equally, the Labour Party has been reluctant to spell out exactly where it would find a new round of €3bn in cuts.
Finance spokeswoman Joan Burton last night accused Mr Lenihan of "showboating", but again could not give examples of its alternative plan.
She insisted Labour will outline its approach on saving €3bn before the Budget.
As with Labour, Fine Gael could not give any details of its plan to rescue the economy. A spokesperson dismissed the minister's challenge as "more spoof and spin".
But when asked about how Fine Gael would come up with the €3bn, the spokesman would only say the party will set out its alternative strategy at some point before the Budget.
Mr Lenihan's challenge came only 24 hours after he warned of swingeing cuts of more than €3bn in the forthcoming Budget. He told Fianna Fail's pre-Dail gathering in Galway that the €3bn agreed with the European Commission was a "minimum figure".
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said yesterday it was "pathetic" that Fine Gael spent last week's think-in discussing elections and not policies and economic solutions.