What was said: Extract from Morning Ireland interview

The interview

A TRANSCRIPT of a section of interview between Cathal Mac Coille, Morning Ireland presenter, and Taoiseach Brian Cowen:

Cathal Mac Coille: “Would you like to cut more than €3 billion [worth of cuts] if you could, if that was feasible?”

Brian Cowen: “Look, we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that fiscal stability is returned to the country over a period of time. It won’t be done overnight. This year’s budget will not solve the problem in any event, in terms of whether its 3bn or 3.1bn or 3.2bn or anything else.

“And I think it is important that people will understand that for every five euros we are spending, we are taking in three euros in, in Exchequer returns.”

Cathal Mac Coille: “Can you rule out anything, by the way? Could you rule out four billion [in cuts]?”

Brian Cowen: “We are not talking about, ahem, ah adjustments of that nature. What we are talking about is ensuring that people understand that this Government is determined to meet the agreements it has reached with the European Commission and to do so in a way that is credible and is making sure we deal with the deficit problems.”

Cathal Mac Coille: “In rough terms, are we talking about three, three and a half billion?”

Brian Cowen: “Sorry, Cathal, you are long enough in the game to know that when we are starting our estimates campaign the Minister for Finance is making it very clear that the €3bn is not an illusory figure, it is, it is, the basis on which we are going to discuss these terms.”

Cathal Mac Coille: “And it won’t be four?”

Brian Cowen: “I don’t expect it will be 4bn no but, I mean, I don’t want to be, ahem, anticipating or preempting discussions which are about to take place between ministers.”

Cathal Mac Coille: “Alright, one of the key elements of the Government’s strategy, the Croke Park agreement, was criticised earlier in the programme by Leo Varadkar, who said that very little had been done to implement it. Now when are we going to see the kind of flexibility and mobility that big changes in the way civil service/public service, ah, works, that that agreement promised?”

Brian Cowen: “What is going to happen now of course is, what people need to know is for next year we’re beginning discussions at the moment as to what our budgets will be for next year, and what we have to do is align the estimates campaign with the industrial relations agenda.

“And what that will involve is where every department will be setting out based on the amounts it will be able to have next year. It will be, it will be, it will be dealing with its own, ahem, management and its own personnel and its own staff over coming months explaining that simply we have to get more from less, we want to avoid ah, impacting on, ah… those who require the services.”

Cathal Mac Coille: ‘When’ is the question Taoiseach.

Brian Cowen: “During the course of this estimates campaign that we will be ending up with a situation where the allocations that will be made will require the implementation in many respects of the Good Friday, of the, sorry, of the Croke Park Agreement, which is about redeployment which is about better work practices.”

Cathal Mac Coille: “When will this happen? Next year?”

Brian Cowen: “Of course. We signed the agreement in June.”

Cathal Mac Coille: “A couple of things in relation to yourself and the Greens; one of them is, and it is in the revised programme for Government, the agreement to bring in legislation on corporate donations, have you reached agreement with them? When are we going to see it?”

Brian Cowen: “Again that is legislation that is in place, or sorry, that is legislation that is in preparation. The whole question of dealing with that, ah, is under consideration and it will come through Government channels as, as normal and seeing what way we can address this issue.”

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