Party leaders discuss public finances

Thursday 21 October 2010 11.09
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Brian Cowen - Taoiseach insists forecasts were 'justifiable'
Brian Cowen - Taoiseach insists forecasts were 'justifiable'
Sinn Féin - On the outside looking in
Sinn Féin - On the outside looking in

The talks process on the economy involving the leaders of the four main political parties at Government Buildings has ended after just over two hours.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore confirmed that the talks process 'is now over'.

Mr Gilmore said it was clear that there were differences between Labour and the Government parties in relation to the Budget.

In a statement this evening, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said: 'The country needs a recovery plan not just an austerity plan.'

He said that the plan 'must include a stimulus and growth package focused on job creation and fundamental reform of the way Government operates'.

Earlier, Taoiseach Brian Cowen told RTÉ's Six-One News there is still a commitment by the parties to reach the 3% deficit target by 2014.

Mr Cowen said briefings will continue with the Opposition on the proposed four-year economic plan at official and ministerial level.

He said the discussions were 'constructive' and 'civil' although there were political differences.

Green Party leader John Gormley said that he was disappointed there was not more consensus reached in the talks.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said he welcomed the commitment given on reducing the deficit.

Mr Lenihan said: 'This commitment agreed between the Government and the two main opposition parties, sends out to the international markets an important signal of our determination to restore order to the public finances.'

A Dáil debate on the economy has been proposed for next week.

Adams joins Sinn Féin protest

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams joined his Leinster House team outside Government Buildings to protest against their exclusion from the talks.

Earlier in the Dáil, the Taoiseach defended economic projections from the Department of Finance.

Mr Cowen was responding to Mr Gilmore, who claimed the lack of reliable information on the economy meant the discussions would be taking place in a vacuum.

Mr Gilmore complained once more about the inaccuracy of earlier economic forecasts.

He asked the Taoiseach what the projected growth rate and unemployment figures were and what correction he was likely to make next year.

Mr Cowen said the assumptions on which the forecasts had been made had been justifiable at the time, but subsequent events, such as the turmoil in the bond markets, had undermined them.

He said projections for next year were being worked on and would soon be available.

Mr Cowen said some information would be market sensitive, and he hoped the talks between the parties would respect confidentiality and reflect the seriousness of the situation.

Elsewhere, the Finance Minister ruled out an independent assessment of the Department of Finance's figures, as suggested by Mr Kenny.

Speaking at a banking conference in Dublin today, Mr Lenihan said Ireland had been affected by worse-than-expected economic activity internationally.

Fine Gael guarantee motion rejected

The Dáil has rejected a Fine Gael motion calling on the Government to introduce a loan guarantee scheme for small and medium enterprises.

The motion was rejected by 78 votes to 72.

Fine Gael had argued that an estimated 80,000 small firms employ about 800,000 people around the country.

It said 1,132 of those businesses had been declared insolvent so far this year.

The party said that many firms still could not access bank credit.