Belfast Telegraph

Bailout 'depends on savings plan'

Ireland's multibillion bailout is only secure if the Government pushes ahead with a drastic four-year savings plan despite calls for a snap election, a senior minister has said.

Transport Minister Noel Dempsey vowed the Cabinet would continue to finalise the 15 billion euro road map to recovery, due to be published on Wednesday.

Mr Dempsey also called for co-operation across the political system after Taoiseach Brian Cowen defied demands for an election before Christmas.

He said the Opposition needs to put the country first, put aside politics and back the estimated 90 billion euro bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Europe.

"The easiest thing for us to do at the moment is to walk away from this, to have an election, to allow somebody else to come in and wash our hands of the whole thing," said Mr Dempsey, whose constituency office in Trim, Co Meath, was targeted by vandals who spray painted the word "traitor" and smashed windows.

"But that is not what we believe is the right thing to do," he added.

"We don't have the luxury of time in relation to this. We went, we asked for assistance, we were given that assistance on the basis that we were going to produce this four-year plan, that we were going to produce a budget and that budget would pass. If we can't do that then the assistance isn't there."

The Taoiseach, who will dissolve the Dail in the new year, has rung Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore directly about the vital cuts, which will be the harshest in the history of the state, and offered access to officials in the Department of Finance.

Mr Dempsey said the purpose of the phone call was to inform the leaders the message from the European Central Bank was that any assistance was granted on the basis of the plan and budget. But both parties again called for an immediate general election.

Fine Gael's deputy leader James Reilly said: "What's the point in people preparing a four-year plan that they're not going to preside over and they won't be able to implement and that they haven't consulted the people on?"

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