O’Keeffe hits out at toxic assets agency

MAVERICK Fianna Fáil TD Ned O’Keeffe shocked fellow TDs last night by expressing strong opposition to the new toxic assets agency.

The Cork East deputy told a meeting of the parliament party that the National Asset Management Agency, which will buy up to €90 billion in bad debts, was a bad idea.

He criticised economists for advising the Government a “bad bank” concept was correct, singling out the economist Peter Bacon for criticism.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and his new economic adviser, Alan Ahearne, attended the meeting to brief TDs and senators.

Backbench TDs expressed fear of a public backlash over the abolition of the Christmas welfare bonus in yesterday’s Budget but do not expect anger on the scale of last October’s medical card controversy. TDs said there was not the same level of anger as the same meeting after October’s Budget, when the row over medical cards for over 70s first emerged.

“The Christmas bonus is a bit of a difficulty but there was also a recognition that social welfare in general wasn’t touched,” said one TD. “Unfortunately we have to make choices,” the backbencher added.

Another TD said there was a “sense of a reality of the situation”.

Social welfare recipients usually get a double payment in December to help them meet the extra costs of food and children’s toys.

The two independent TDs who support the Government remained silent last night. Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy Rae had been in negotiations with the Government in the run up to the Budget.


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