Sunday 18 February 2018

War of words erupts over fixing economy

Fiach Kelly and Aine Kerr

A FURIOUS war of words erupted between the leaders of the two main political parties yesterday after Enda Kenny said he would need a decade to fix the economy.

Mr Kenny's claim in yesterday's Irish Independent was rubbished by both Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The Fine Gael leader responded by calling Mr Cowen the worst Finance Minister in the history of the State.

Mr Cowen said Fine Gael has no policies and would not bring about a recovery for 20 years, while Mr Lenihan said he would sort the economic crisis out "a lot earlier than 10 years".

Opening his parliamentary party's 'think-in' in Galway yesterday, Mr Cowen refused to say how long it would take him to fix the economy.

"I don't know how long it would take Enda, depending on the policies he pursues," he said. "At the moment, we don't have a policy agenda for him."

He also said the IMF and ESRI were predicting the Irish economy would grow next year, and claimed government policies had already led to growth.

"It could take him (Mr Kenny) 20 years the way he's going on," Mr Cowen said, and added that no opposition parties have a "coherent policy framework".

Mr Lenihan scoffed at Mr Kenny's claim and said he would bring about recovery in a much quicker timeframe.

"Ten years to fix the economy," Mr Lenihan asked. "It's a very long time. I've certainly had plenty of difficulties in the last two years, I don't deny that. We've had difficulties with our forecasts, I don't deny that.


"But certainly if given the chance, I'll have this problem sorted out and this Government will have this problem sorted out a lot earlier than 10 years."

Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe also weighed in on the argument, and said the opposition did not have the "bottle" to take tough decisions. But Mr Kenny accused Fianna Fail of destroying the economy and said Mr Cowen was "the last person we can trust when it comes to economic matters".

He also accused Mr Cowen of being in denial about the "economic disaster he helped create".

"Brian Cowen was the worst Minister for Finance in the history of the State," Mr Kenny said. "Along with Bertie Ahern, and latterly with Brian Lenihan, he has been the ever-present presence at the top of government when our country was being destroyed by bad policies, bad banking practice and invisible regulatory oversight.

"When he took over Finance in September 2004, there were 160,466 on the live register. In August 2010, there were 466,923.

"Brian Cowen is the last person who should be engaged in economic forecasting since all his predictions for the Irish economy -- both as Minister for Finance and as Taoiseach -- have been drastically wrong."

Irish Independent

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