Enda Kenny has been accused by Fianna Fáil of using the EU presidency for cynical party advantage.
Party leader Micheál Martin made the charge as he attacked the Taoiseach for ignoring the country’s slide back into recession since Dublin took over the European Council presid-ency in January.
“During the last six months, growth rates have fallen, recession has returned, unemployment has reached record levels, and sovereign bonds have experienced their fourth worst month in over 20 years,” Mr Martin told the Dáil.
“The evidence is overwhelming that the policy of coordinated austerity in all parts of Europe has failed and will keep failing, yet the response has been to double down on the policy.”
He said Mr Kenny had tried to “smear” Fianna Fáil over the Anglo tapes and had shown “cynical partisanship” while acting as European head.
The attack came after Mr Kenny was accused of misleading people about the achievements of the Irish EU presidency, as Irish MEPs threw insults at one another in the European Parliament.
MEP Paul Murphy accused Mr Kenny of being misleading regarding the success of the presidency.
“Given that the proclaimed aim of the Irish presidency was stability, growth and jobs and that they have not materialised, it’s a case of never let the facts get in the way of a good story,” he told MEPs.
The successes claimed by the Taoiseach, such as agreement on the EU’s six-year budget, would in fact worsen the economic crisis, and is the first austerity budget in the EU with cuts to education and development programmes, he said.
He also disagreed that the other achievement, saying the opening of free-trade talks with the US was not all it appeared to be and he asked if the Taoiseach would agree the talks be suspended pending a full investigation of the spying allegations. “Would he not agree that Edward Snowden should be commended for his actions and he should be granted asylum in Ireland or another European country?”
Northern Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson described the tactics adopted by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in negotiating the budget as “an embarrassment”.
Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness rushed to the defence of Mr Kenny.
“Words matter. Reflect on the words of Mrs Anderson. You may be wearing green today, but only on the outside. I regard your comments with the contempt they deserve.”
The Taoiseach refuted criticism of the presidency. Sitting to his right was Lucinda Creighton, the minister of state for European Affairs. He thanked her for her work during the presidency, which brought him his first round of applause from MEPs.
Harsh words also came from Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit. He said “we in this parliament have missed an historic opportunity” to ensure there was a sufficient EU budget to run the union. He described the €9bn for youth unemployment as derisory.
Others were fulsome in their praise, especially the EPP group to which Fine Gael belongs.
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