Monday 23 October 2017

Government risks collapse unless it halts drift: Eamon Gilmore

Eamon Gilmore and Phil Prendergast
Eamon Gilmore and Phil Prendergast
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has warned the Government that it must substantially change its approach or risk collapsing before its scheduled end of term in 2016.

But Mr Gilmore stopped short of calling for a renegotiation of the Programme for Government agreed between the coalition parties.

Yet he said the time had come for the Government to "renew its purpose" now that economic stability has been achieved.

Mr Gilmore was speaking in the wake of comments made by Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, given to the 'Sunday Independent', in which he said the Government risked collapsing if the "current drift" was allowed to continue.

Mr Rabbitte warned that unless the Government gets a "firm grip" of the political agenda, he would be "fearful of our chances of seeing 2016 as a government".

Mr Rabbitte also made a bold statement that in his view there is no more room for spending cuts or tax increases. "It's gone as far as it can in terms of cuts and taxes," he said.

When asked to respond at Labour's annual 1916 commemoration in Arbour Hill yesterday, Mr Gilmore said Mr Rabbitte was merely "making a statement of fact".

Mr Gilmore's comments come after a series of poor opinion polls for the Labour Party and a call from one of its current MEPs, Phil Prendergast, for him to stand down two weeks ago.

But he said that the Government must shift its focus to ensure that those whose sacrifices made the recovery possible are rewarded.

"Government has to continue to renew what it is doing. There is a need for a renewal of our purpose," he said.

"But that has to have a purpose, recovery was never an end in itself.

"There is a need for renewal of our purpose."

Asked would the "renewal" involve sitting down and negotiating some kind of formal agreement with Fine Gael, he said: "It always involves discussion with our coalition partners but I think what we have to do is look at the problems facing people today."

"Recovery was not an end in itself but the benefits would have to go to working families whose sacrifices made the recovery possible," he added.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach said he had no response to Mr Gilmore's comments.

Mr Rabbitte's comments about the level of spending cuts and tax increases come as the Government is looking to make an adjustment of €2bn in October's Budget.

It is likely that tax increases will be a sticking point between the coalition parties with Finance Minister Michael Noonan already signalling his intention to increase the €32,500 level at which workers begin to pay the higher rate of income tax.

Mr Noonan's department said it had no response to Mr Rabbitte's comments.

Irish Independent

Also in this section