GREEN Party leader John Gormley has suggested that an all-party national government may be needed to ensure the country keeps its financial sovereignty.
He said the economic situation was so bad that it had gone beyond the point where standard adversarial party politics could be pursued.
The room to manoeuvre was very narrow, the Environment Minister said, and a consensus was required on ways to raise new taxes and cut spending.
“This goes way beyond party politics. At this stage it is about the future of the country and the future sovereignty of our country.”
Fine Gael dismissed the suggestion, however, with finance spokesman Michael Noonan saying it would not prop up the Government.
“If they feel they can’t do the job, step aside,” he said.
Their comments came as European Central Bank president Jean Claude Trichet warned that Ireland would have to cut its deficit to sustainable levels.
Mr Gormley later sought to step away from the term “national government”, with his spokesman saying the immediate desire was for an all-party consensus on budgetary issues.
The concept of a national government may be worth considering for a period of time, the spokesman added.
“I think the situation is now so grave that it’s absolutely incumbent on all of the political parties, despite their political differences, to come together. I would suggest that we do so without pre-conditions, let’s talk through the issues, let’s be as open and honest as possible with each other because I think this is what the [European] Commission is looking for, this is certainly what the market is looking for,” said Mr Gormley.
Mr Noonan said his party agreed with the Government’s 2014 deficit target but would not sign up to its plan to deliver the savings.
“We’ve no problem giving assurances that we’re committed to the broad fiscal correction, but there are no circumstances in which we’ll be tied to the individual cuts or the individual tax increases which may be proposed by the Government.”
He said it was “currently impossible” to support the Government’s approach “because nobody knows what these plans are”.
Tánaiste Mary Coughlan acknowledged in the Dáil that Fine Gael and Labour had already agreed with the Government on the overall target of reducing the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014.
But there is widespread divergence after that.
Labour said cutbacks for 2011 should not exceed €3 billion, but Fine Gael agreed with the Government that the figure has to be higher.
The debate took place as Taoiseach Brian Cowen announced the first investments under the Innovation Fund — a €500 million scheme to provide businesses with venture capital.
Venture capital DFJ Esprit will open an international office in Dublin and is committed to investing in firms with substantial Irish sites.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved