Old hands point the way on a day of rousing talk
THE Government did not do enough to prevent the International Monetary Fund (IMF) from taking control of the country's finances, former Finance Minister Ray MacSharry said yesterday.
Mr MacSharry stopped short of criticising the negotiation skills of both Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.
But he said they should have negotiated more with the EU to find alternative ways to fix the economy.
"I would have been quicker off the mark with Europe to prevent the IMF coming in and I would have been quicker with the European Central Bank to try and see what mechanisms they had in place to help us," Mr MacSharry told the Irish Independent.
The former EU commissioner said that, as Finance Minister in the late 1980s, when Ireland was also in financial crisis, he had helped stop the IMF coming into the country.
"They were looking to be there in my time and I told them I was elected by the people and I told them I would do what needed to be done and I did," he said.
He added it was time for government departments to retake control of bodies such as the Health Service Executive and the National Roads Authority in the interest of protecting taxpayers' money.
He was speaking after a rare appearance in the Dail yesterday, when 40 former taoisigh, ministers and TDs met to discuss reforming government institutions at a one-day conference.
They included former Fine Gael leaders Garret FitzGerald and Alan Dukes, former president of the European Parliament Pat Cox and former Justice Minister Nora Owen.
In a rousing first speech, former Labour Minister for Health and Social Welfare Barry Desmond called for cuts to the salaries of deputies and ministers as well as more transparency from the social partners over the Croke Park Agreement.
He also called for greater accountability from civil servants who work behind the scenes in state departments.
Attracting more women TDs to the Dail should also play a role in the change, Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said.
All 40 present also called for January 21 to be declared Ireland's 'Independence Day' to mark the inaugural Dail, which first sat 92 years ago.