Saturday 20 January 2018

Kenny and Gilmore to meet Cowen on Budget

U-turn: Taoiseach's letter came as surprise

ENDA Kenny and Eamon Gilmore are to accept an invitation from the Taoiseach to engage in cross-party Budget talks.

A letter from Brian Cowen to the two main opposition leaders yesterday has cleared the way for a meeting of political minds in the coming days.

However, Labour has described the letter as "very untypical of Brian Cowen".

Taoiseach Brian Cowen performed a bizarre U-turn yesterday and issued invitations to Mr Kenny and Eamon Gilmore, having initially poured cold water over Green leader John Gormley's appeals for a Budget consensus.

Mr Kenny said it was a case of the Taoiseach "seeing the light" after days of confused messages from the Government parties.

He said: "I welcome it and will be responding positively to Mr Cowen's letter."

And this morning Labour's Pat Rabbitte said the "courteous and normal thing to do is to attend those talks".

Mr Cowen had suggested there would be little point in roundtable talks between the main parties as the Government strives to devise a four-year Budgetary plan by mid-November.

His lack of enthusiasm for the Green proposal caused significant tension between the coalition partners but last night's U-turn appears to have mended those wounds.


In his letter, Mr Cowen says that it is "not a time for business as usual, either in politics or in the economy".

"We need to be very clear about the choices that we face. We need to make decisions which, even when they are unpalatable, are clearly in the interests of the country and of our people," wrote the Taoiseach.

He adds that the already agreed target of reducing the national deficit to 3pc by 2014 is "absolutely essential not only to achieve stability, but to enable us to convince lenders and investors that our funding needs now, and over the four years ahead, can be met with confidence".

The letter goes on to suggest that Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Green Party "explore the extent to which cross-party consensus could be achieved on a realistic approach to putting the public finances on a sustainable footing by 2014".

Mr Kenny has already agreed in principle, saying he would be happy to meet.

Labour's response has been cooler but speaking on Newstalk's Breakfast Show, Pat Rabbitte confirmed Eamon Gilmore would accept the invitation.

He speculated that Mr Cowen's letter was as a result of a tantrum by the Green Party and "playacting" by its leader.

"The best interests of the people of this country would be served by the earliest possible election," said Mr Rabbitte.

Meanwhile, the doors of the Department of Finance have already been opened to opposition finance spokespeople.

Michael Noonan and Joan Burton have both met with officials from the Department for an initial briefing and will get further access to accounting books in the coming days.

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