Labour’s public expenditure reform minister Brendan Howlin signalled he and Finance Minister Michael Noonan were set for down to the wire negotiations in the run-up to the Oct 15 budget.
“Michael Noonan and I get down to the nitty-gritty, we meet very regularly, probably for the next number of weeks we will meet daily and then we will present a joint package that will be in the best interests of growing jobs in this economy and giving confidence that we are in the final lap on the road to recovery.”
Mr Howlin was speaking at Labour’s parliamentary party conference in Meath which is set to be dominated by pre-budget discussions on what the party can live with in the looming austerity budget.
Opening the event, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore tried to play down widespread reports of a rocky relationship with the party’s deputy leader, Joan Burton. Mr Gilmore said he had an “excellent” working relationship with the social protection minister, as he dismissed talk of a leadership challenge from Ms Burton.
Mr Gilmore attacked Fianna Fáil for presiding over an era of “corruption” and said he was not concerned about Labour’s slump in the polls since sharing power with Fine Gael.
The Tánaiste said Fianna Fáil had been obsessed by opinion polls and taken damaging short term policy stances as a result.
“When a real election is held I think the Irish people will not, as some opinion polls seem to suggest, reward the party that got us into the crisis and punish the party that is solving it,” Mr Gilmore said.
The Tánaiste made it clear the budget’s tax and cut target of €3.1bn was now no longer needed.
“We have always been determined to meet our commitments, to get out of the programme, whatever is necessary, but not to do more than what is necessary, because Irish people have bourne a very big burden over the past five years. The adjustment that has had to take place in public finances, the adjustments that people have had to make in their personal finances have been enormous,” he said.