herald

Monday 20 August 2018

Browned-off Kenny goes head-to-head with guru Hobbs

FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny may have snubbed Vincent Browne's invitation but he has accepted a challenge from business guru Eddie Hobbs for a face-to-face interview.

Mr Kenny shrank away from a grilling from TV3's frontman, saying that it was due to a comment made by Browne that the party leader "should go into a room with a loaded gun and a bottle of whiskey".

The Fine Gael leader said: "I will say to Vincent Browne, directly, I have been in hundreds of homes across the country where the tragedy of suicide has inflicted pain and stress and deep tragedy on families."



Pledged

Broadcaster Browne has previously apologised for his comments and TV3 has pledged to go ahead with a planned party leaders' debate next Tuesday.

Earlier this week Mr Kenny willingly sat down for another tete-a-tete, this time an interview with the straight-talking economic analyst.

In the 30-minute interview carried out for Kildare.tv on Thursday, Mr Kenny outlined that he had plans to slash civil service employees by an additional 18,000 but pledged to keep income tax at the current rate for their period of government.

Eddie Hobbs asked the tough questions -- what was Fine Gael's plan to prevent a shock in the Irish economy if the European Central Bank raised interest rates, if Ireland can bear the total level of debt and the "small matter of the interest rate" being paid to EU and IMF.

While Mr Kenny batted off the enquiries with rote answers, he failed to outline a clear economic plan -- preferring to leave the detail to the "fiscal policy which will be published in the course of the campaign".

The interview was more buns than bonds -- a chat between pals with a cup of tea. And the leader said Fine Gael had been advised by a number of "heavy hitters" with regards to their economic policy.

"I'm absolutely astounded at the number of people in a range of disciplines who have offered their services to Fine Gael," he said.

"Some of these are difficult to reconcile with others because they cover a full spectrum."

However, Mr Kenny reaffirmed his commitment to renegotiate parts of the bailout deal with the IMF and EU.

"We believe that this deal should be renegotiated from two perspectives -- the interest rate and the second in respect of the cost structure therein and the banking structure that's in it," he said.

Mr Kenny gave an insight into his connections in Europe -- saying that he "knows Jose (Barroso) well" and has regular dealings with French and German premiers Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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