Belfast Telegraph

Apology for bust economy 'welcomed'

Senior coalition partner Fine Gael has said it welcomes Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin's apology for his party's role in leading Ireland from boom to bust.

Former government minister Mr Martin made his remarks at Fianna Fail's 73rd Ard Fheis in the RDS where tens of thousands of potential emigrants also gathered at an overseas jobs fair.

"We made mistakes. We got things wrong and we are sorry for that," said Mr Martin. "No equivocation, no half apology, just the plain, unvarnished truth."

Fine Gael said it welcomed the apology and acknowledgement of Fianna Fail's part in Ireland's economic woes.

"It is to be hoped that he will keep his promise to provide constructive opposition and to help get this country out of the crisis caused by a government of which he was a minister," a Fine Gael spokesman said.

Mr Martin admitted the party should have acted differently in its handling of the economy, with policies that contributed to the fall of the Celtic Tiger and Ireland's epic property crash.

He also said he understood why the public turned against Fianna Fail in last year's election which saw the party lose parliamentary control for the first time since the 1980s. "Last year the people did what they were right to do: they held us to account," he said. "People were angry and they showed it, delivering a historic defeat for us. We fully acknowledge the scale of the defeat."

Fianna Fail has come under constant fire from the Fine Gael-Labour government for striking deals with the IMF, handing Ireland's sovereignty over to Europe and leaving the nation to pay for the debts of foreign banks. There are also more than 400,000 people on the dole as a result of an unemployment crisis brought about by the economic crash.

"It's not enough to point to the worst world recession in 80 years and the eurozone crisis," Mr Martin went on. "Nor to point to the fact that other parties were demanding policies which would have made things worse. That is for them to answer for. We were in government and we should have acted differently."

Giving his first keynote speech as leader at a Fianna Fail Ard Fheis - the first to be held in four years due to elections and leadership changes - Mr Martin insisted his main focus was the party's renewal. Mr Martin insisted jobs and growth would be central to Fianna Fail's renewed policies.

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