Show us the money -- then we'll plan, say opposition
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen will not be able to rely on the opposition parties for any consensus agreement like the Tallaght Strategy for dealing with the economic crisis.
However, the parties have again failed to outline their concrete plans for getting the economy back on track, saying they first needed the Government to give them detailed figures on the state of the economy.
Mr Cowen last night called on Fine Gael and Labour to engage in a "mature" debate about the upcoming Budget and challenged them to come up with their own versions of a four-year cutbacks plan.
The Government appears to be trying to get cross-party support for its December Budget or achieve something akin to the 1987 Tallaght Strategy -- when Fine Gael offered to support Fianna Fail on the tough economic policies required.
The Government knows it is unlikely to be in power in four years to oversee its cutbacks plan and is trying to pin down the opposition on its proposals, as polls suggest they will be in charge by then.
Fine Gael and Labour last night vowed to produce alternative proposals for 2011 before the Budget on December 7, but ruled out any consensus approach with Fianna Fail.
Both parties have yet to spell out the details of their alternative budgets, saying they haven't been given access to Department of Finance information in order to produce comprehensive options.
Some within Fine Gael, such as Senator Paschal Donohoe, have argued that all parties have a part to play in saving the country. But any return to a Tallaght Strategy scenario was ruled out by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny.
He said the first strategy had been "wonderful" from a national perspective but the party had lost votes as a result. His party is now preparing its own fiscal programme.
"As far as I'm concerned, if the advice had been taken that the Fine Gael party gave two years ago by this Government, we would not now be in as desperate a position as we are," Mr Kenny said.
Labour's finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said her party would put forward its own policies. But she was scathing of the Government's failure to provide opposition parties with detailed figures on the state of the economy.
"If Brian Cowen wants the opposition to produce figures, well, then, he really needs to liaise with us. If he wants cooperation, he'd better come forward with the figures," she said.