Fine Gael keen to distance party from FitzGerald remarks

FINE GAEL and its former leader, Garret FitzGerald, were at odds last night after he suggested that now was the wrong time for the Government to fall.

Saying the fiscal and banking crises had to be tackled, Dr FitzGerald argued it was important that the Government survive at least until the end of the year to implement their proposals and restore stability.

Those proposals include the establishment of NAMA, to which Fine Gael is firmly opposed. The party reiterated its belief last night that NAMA was the wrong approach, and disagreed with Dr FitzGerald’s views, saying he had commented in an “independent” capacity.

Dr FitzGerald made the remarks in a weekend newspaper column. He started by actually criticising the Government for its role in the economic crash, arguing it had destroyed Ireland’s competitiveness and aggravated the housing bubble through “irresponsible” policies.

For that reason, he suggested it would have been preferable if the Government had been replaced last autumn when the crisis arose.

“A new government, not inhibited from explaining the origins of a crisis for which it had no direct responsibility, might have been better able tomobilise support for the very tough measures needed to resolve it,” he wrote.

But the simple reality was that this did not happen, and the Government now had to move forward, he said. If the Government failed to get NAMA and the budget through the Dáil, it could create a lack of stability that wouldaffect Ireland’s ability to borrow money abroad.

“This could undermine our capacity to borrow the huge sums we need to keep going. After these two measures have been successfully implemented, if the Dáil or the electorate so decided, there could then safely be a change of government. But in my view it would not be helpful for that to happen within the crucial three months ahead,” he wrote.

“The opposition parties should be the first to recognise this. No worse fate could befall an opposition than to precipitate themselves into government by defeating measures, the rejection of which could throw our state into the hands of the IMF.”

It is not the first time Dr FitzGerald has found himself at odds with the party in recent months. Prior to the European elections, he urged Fine Gael voters in Dublin to give their second preferences to Fianna Fáil’s Eoin Ryan rather than Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, even though FG headquarters wanted to see Mr Ryan defeated.


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