We Are All In This Together – Taoiseach

In a candid address to the Dáil today, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said everyone will have a part to play in the forthcoming budgetary hardships, saying "we really are all in this together".

Speaking today ahead of a Dail debate on the implementation of some €15 billion cuts over the next four years, Mr Cowen claimed that Ireland's problems are so serious that "no vested interest", and "no section of our society", would escape.

While, with little room for political sidestepping, the Taoiseach also admitted to the house that, "given the budgetary crisis we are now in, I do not believe that we can protect every aspect of health, education and social welfare spending".

Mr Cowen also spoke of the "frontloading" process that will be applied to the cuts, which will involve weighting the heftiest reductions in this December's budget. Mr Cowen conceded that while 'frontloading' would dampen economic growth in 2011, it was necessary to build confidence in international markets and reduce the interest rate among the State's international lenders.

However, Mr Cowen was also keen to point out that Ireland still had 1.86 million people at work today, "which is around 480,000 more people than were at work in 1997".

He also pointed out that today’s figures from the Irish Exporters Association showed a 12.8% growth in merchandise exports since June and a 9% increase in total exports on the same period last year.

The Taoiseach maintained that his Government had "acted aggressively" building Ireland's 'Smart Economy' and that the balance of payments of the Irish economy is moving into surplus.

"There are many reasons to be hopeful and optimistic about the future of our country and her people," Mr Cowen said.

In a rousing closing, Mr Cowen said the current situation was a moment with very few parallels in our history and that he stood before the House in the full knowledge of his responsibilities as Taoiseach.

"I will do my duty. I will discharge my responsibilities to the best of my ability. I will do so in the best interests of my country at this important time. I trust the debate we are having here will be a constructive and solid contribution to meeting the challenges our country faces present," he said.

Responding to Mr Cowen's address, the Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore complained there were few figures available to the Opposition, and that last week's unprecedented leadership briefings did carried little weight.

"We know that there is to be a four year plan and a budget that are supposed to restore order to the public finances and confidence in the country. But after that, the government have provided very few specifics," Mr Gilmore said.

He added: "Today’s debate should be about solutions. The economic crisis that we now face is the worst in the history of the State. Disastrous mismanagement of the economy, and the catastrophic error of the blanket bank guarantee, has brought the country to the edge of bankruptcy."


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