TÁNAISTE Mary Coughlan has refused to identify which elements of the Bord Snip report she believes “don’t make sense”.
The Government was accused of being in disarray after Ms Coughlan rubbished the report only for Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to insist it remained “key to the budgetary process”.
Bord Snip was a Government-appointed expert group tasked with identifying savings in the public sector. Chaired by Colm McCarthy, the group recommended €5.3bn of job cuts and spending reductions.
Ms Coughlan had been deputising for Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the Dáil yesterday morning when she said: “There are many recommendations within McCarthy which don’t make sense — many.”
But a short time later, Mr Lenihan reiterated his view that the report remained central to the formation of the December budget.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who had raised the issue by saying the Government should reject the report’s recommendation to close circa 350 Garda stations, called on Ms Coughlan to clarify the situation.
“The attempt by the Tánaiste in the Dáil to distance herself from key recommendations made in the report of An Bord Snip and the subsequent statement of rebuke by the Minister for Finance… is an indication of the disarray in government,” he said.
“If Mary Coughlan genuinely believes that there are many aspects of the report that do not make sense, then there is an obligation on her to spell out which particular recommendations she feels make no sense.”
But Ms Coughlan, speaking later in Cork, refused to say which recommendations she had been referring to.
“I’m not going to say,” she insisted. “What I’m saying to you is this: we were speaking specifically about the closure of Garda stations [to achieve a] reduction of €1m. The Minister for Justice, if he’s not prepared to consider that, then he will have to find €1m elsewhere.
“That is the management that has to be done by each one of us as ministers, and as I said, we’re only at the beginning of a deliberative process. This is the beginning of an initial discussion and we will make our decisions in due course.”
Fine Gael claimed the Government was “dithering and floundering” as the economy collapsed and unemployment rocketed.
Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar said the Taoiseach had already distanced himself from a report recommending an overhaul of the tax system and the Tánaiste was now doing the same with the Bord Snip report.
“The McCarthy Report was commissioned specifically to identify savings to help the Government balance its books and end the State’s ever-growing dependency on debt,” he said.
“I was amazed to hear Tánaiste Mary Coughlan writing off the McCarthy Report… Given that the Taoiseach has confirmed that the Commission on Taxation Report has effectively been shelved, how exactly is this shambolic Government planning to cut the enormous, and growing, deficit?”
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