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'State of the nation' TV talk by Enda

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny plans a "state of the nation" TV address before Budget Day.

The Taoiseach announced his pre-Budget address at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting yesterday, saying he intended to set out the fiscal and economic position the country finds itself in.

The announcement came as controversy swirled over his Government's decision to pay Anglo Irish Bank unsecured bondholders $1bn and the embarrassing admission that Ireland's national debt is €3.6bn less than the Government thought after an accounting blunder.

The Taoiseach, according to one source quoted today, told the parliamentary party meeting: "There must be a clear explanation to the people what our strategy is and the importance of the European project."

He is now likely to seek time from RTE over the coming weeks to give his speech before the December 6 Budget.

The €3.6bn accounting error on the Department of Finance's books is roughly the amount the Government needs to raise in the Budget. But Government sources were quick to point out that the mistake will have no effect on the December Budget. Irish Government debt now falls from €148bn to €144.4bn.

The Taoiseach yesterday argued that Ireland could not follow Greece into default on debts as this would be disastrous for Ireland's incipient recovery.

"While we have a long way to go, we have made a decent start and are now on the right track," he wrote. "The deal agreed by EU leaders last Thursday morning is another step in the right direction."