TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has glossed over cracks in his cabinet’s budgetary strategy and the credibility it attached to cuts proposed by An Bord Snip Nua.
He said the cabinet was determined to balance the books and the report of Professor Colm McCarthy would play a significant role in this.
Mr Cowen said there was “no serious difference of opinion” between ministers regarding the overall budget agenda.
He brushed off comments by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan – who said many of Mr McCarthy’s proposals did not make sense – as being part of the political process.
And Mr Cowen said he had full confidence in Ms Coughlan, who sparked the controversy while deputising during his trip to the UN General Assembly in New York..
“She is an excellent minister, hardworking and a very good member of cabinet,” he said.
The Taoiseach was speaking at the National Ploughing Championships in Athy, Co Kildare.
Here he was heckled by more than a dozen anti-Lisbon protesters who caused a small melee when their protest, and the Taoiseach’s entourage, blocked a busy walking route. Elsewhere, the Taoiseach was well received at stalls and by farming organisations.
During his visit he said reports of division within Government was a “manufactured story” based on the Tánaiste’s assessment of just one McCarthy recommendation – the option to close 350 small garda stations. It was put to him, Ms Coughlan had volunteered that “many of the recommendations in McCarthy don’t make sense, many”.
Mr Cowen said the entire cabinet, and not a report commissioned by the Department of Finance, would plot budget choices.
In the Dáil, the Tánaiste used the same argument to reject Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore’s view that the Government was in disarray, following Brian Lenihan’s insistence that the McCarthy Report was key to the budgetary process.
Rural affairs minister Eamon O Cuiv was also at the Ploughing Championships and reiterated his assertion there were parts of the McCarthy report which could not be implemented.
“It is well known there are proposals within the report, and I am not going to specify any particular proposal, that are just not practical, that would not be acceptable to the Irish people and they will not be, they will not be implemented,” he said.
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