FORMER Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy has denied his actions contributed in any way to the creation of a construction bubble and the subsequent collapse of the Irish economy.
In his final week as EU Internal Market Commissioner in Brussels, the 60- year-old Fianna Fáil stalwart strongly defended his actions during his seven years in the Department of Finance.
In a wide ranging interview Mr McCreevy also refused to comment in detail on the €controversial €1.6 million property loan he received from Irish Nationwide to buy a luxury apartment in the K Club insisting that claims that the 110% loan was granted without going through the usual stages “has nothing to do with me”.
Dealing first with the causes of the economic crisis Mr McCreevy said it was “not necessarily the case” that the changes he made to the Irish tax system had encouraged the massive and subsequently unsustainable construction sector.
“We can look at what happened at that particular time in Ireland. We ran massive budget surpluses and reduced the debt, incentivised people and created full employment. The numbers of people at work went up to nearly 700,000–800,000”.
Mr McCreevy also suggested the state paid for massive structural projects out of income at the time, and still ran big surpluses and set up the pension reserve fund.
Asked if he considered his actions contributed to the current crisis, he said: “I don’t. I have always said I certainly don’t.”
The former Finance Minister also refused to comment on the actions of the ministers that succeeded him at the Department of Finance, the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan.
“I don’t think its appropriate, that is the line I have consistently taken for the last five years and I’m hardly going to break it now.”
The EU Internal Market Commissioner said the Irish Government had set about correcting its financial problems but warned the recent budget was “the first in a series of steps that will have to be undertaken”.
“The Government’s decisions on bailing out the banks were taken on the evidence available to them at the time. They decided to proceed down the road of the NAMA exercise and like every other Irish person I hope that the actions they are proposing are going to help galvanise the economy into the future.”
He was equally reticent on whether Mr Fingleton should give back the €1m bonus he received when he left the building society. “Nothing to do with me. I’ve no opinion on any of these matters. They are Irish matters,” he said.
Mr McCreevy who is due to attend his final meeting as an EU Commissioner in Brussels today said that he does not know what he will do next.
“I’ll not do anything for the moment. I’m too young to retire. I like working – I’ve always liked working. I know what I’m not going to do – politics. I’ve been long enough at that,” he said.
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