Struggles continue despite bailout exit

Michael McGrath: Major economic challenges remain to be overcome

Post-bailout Ireland faces a raft of challenges, including a mortgage crisis, a lack of lending for businesses, health cuts and patchy support for the unemployed.

Despite positive messages from ministers yesterday about Ireland marking the end of the emergency financial aid programme, opposition TDs gave a cautious welcome.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath warned major economic challenges remained to be overcome if a sustainable recovery was to take root: “Genuine sustainable solutions have not been put in place in respect of mortgage arrears. Banks are not lending to businesses in respect of viable projects. Support for unemployed persons is still patchy and measures to tackle poverty traps have not been delivered.”

He also said the health service remained in crisis and the three recent budgets were independently found by the ESRI to have been regressive in nature.

Mr McGrath said the country needed to achieve a growth rate of 2% to 3% per year over the next number of years to ensure debt sustainability. His warning came after the EU’s final troika programme report on Ireland claimed this week that Ireland’s growth would only amount to 1.7% of GNP next year, less than the 2% the coalition hopes for.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said: “The Irish people aren’t fools. Nothing has changed in real terms. We still owe billions because Fianna Fáil and this government gave the banks €65bn. Unemployment is set to remain in excess of 10% for the next number of years. People are still struggling with the cost of living.”

People Before Profit Alliance leader Richard Boyd Barrett said the marking of the bailout exit was “pointless” as the State would still owe billions of euro to lenders come Monday.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary David Begg also suggested workers might seek an adjustment to incomes following long periods of cuts and pay freezes. “I think it won’t be too long before you see these wage pressures emerge in the system.”

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