Living beyond our means

THE country remains in crisis and will only recover by “us, ourselves working together” the Taoiseach said in a televised address committing Ireland to “stronger economic governance” across Europe and the euro zone.

Enda Kenny warned that thousands would remain jobless and the economy would stay “fragile” for “several more years”.

And he said Budget 2012, being presented in the Dáil today and tomorrow, will impact on every citizen. “The budget will be tough, it has to be,” he said, adding it will be the “first step” on the road to recovery.

He accepted that Fine Gael and Labour have “not so far been in a position to do everything we promised” since coming into Government but had “made a start”.

As he prepares to meet other EU leaders this week for a crunch summit on saving the euro currency, the Taoiseach indicated he supported moves towards further integration to strengthen economic rules.

“Let me be clear — Ireland supports stronger economic governance throughout Europe, and particularly in the euro zone,” he said in a speech from his desk in Government Buildings.

“In fact, the Irish people are paying the price now for the absence of such rules in the past,” adding that the leaders “must make and, more importantly this time, must implement clear decisions this week to prove our shared determination to protect our currency.”

He promised to work for a “positive outcome” for Ireland that “protects our economic security”.

And he called for “firm action” which will “help to restore confidence throughout Europe, and here in Ireland.”

In the 13-minute address, Mr Kenny said he wants to be the Taoiseach under whom the country regains its economic sovereignty.

He told the Irish people that “you are not responsible for this crisis” and thanked people for “your courage, your character, and your sense of responsibility” in helping the Government solve the crisis.

In echoes of a similar address in which Charles Haughey said the country was living beyond its means, Enda Kenny said: “We all know that if, in our own lives, we are spending more than we are earning — we have a problem. Right now, the state is spending €16 billion a year more than it is taking in.”

The address focused on reducing the deficit, which would in turn allow job creation to begin.

But he warned of unemployment for some time to come: “I am painfully aware this will not happen quickly enough for many who are out of work today. It will take several years to create the numbers of new jobs we need.”

Opposition figures were critical of the speech. Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said the speech was in preparation of a “vicious” budget:

“This was a clear attempt to justify in advance what is expected to be a vicious, unfair budget by the Fine Gael/Labour government.

“Enda Kenny’s tax plans will hit those on lowest incomes hardest. What is most striking about the Taoiseach’s remarks is that there is no clear plan to stimulate the economy.”

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Dara Calleary said the speech felt “more like a party political broadcast than an address to the nation”.


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