Tánaiste: Ireland ‘no longer sick man of Europe’

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told his party that Ireland is no longer the sick man of Europe and has become its likeliest success story.

Speaking at his party’s pre-Dáil think-in, he said Ireland would exit its bailout programme by the time the Government was halfway through its term. Labour would not flinch from the tough decisions ahead, he added.

Despite pressure on the Coalition to restore the economy, Labour would not put its social agenda in the “deep freeze”.

“In terms of reputation, we have gone from being the sick man of Europe to its likeliest success story.”

Addressing party TDs and senators at Carton House in Maynooth, Co Kildare, for the two-day seminar, he pointed to the breakthrough for Ireland at the EU summit in June in relation to bank debt.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is this week meeting his counterparts in Europe to lobby for progress about reducing the €62bn in debt.

Mr Gilmore said the country had already completed 75% of adjustments that had to be made to public finances.

The banking system was recovering, Ireland had re-entered the bond markets and the economy had begun to grow again, he told his party.

But there are tough times ahead, including the budget, and people were already feeling worn out, he admitted.

Referring to comments by former US president Bill Clinton at the Democratic convention last week, he said there was no avoiding arithmetic and tackling unavoidable debt.

“By pushing ahead now, it means that by the time the Government is roughly halfway through its term, we can exit the IMF programme, and people can be confident that the long series of difficult budgets has finally come to an end,” Mr Gilmore said.

Labour will discuss economic issues, reforms in social protection and education, possible changes to the Constitution, as well as the upcoming children’s rights referendum, during its seminar.

Earlier, deputy leader Joan Burton told reporters she had yet to see the radical IMF report that this week recommended cuts to welfare and State pensions.

She said her department, social protection, had been “targeted” in the report for “very significant reductions” in expenditure in excess of €500m this year.

“That’s a big number, but we had a very big number last year as well,” she said.

Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister, said the Croke Park agreement was not unchangeable but that his focus was going to be on further reform in the public sector.

Party members will hear from Ruairi Quinn, the education minister, as well as Pat Rabbitte, the communications minister, today, as well as Fine Gael’s Children’s Minister, Frances Fitzgerald.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

HOME DELIVERY SERVICE

Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.