Belfast Telegraph

Cowen apologises after tough Budget

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has unconditionally apologised for the state of the country as he defended the toughest budget in living memory.

A day after the embattled Government unveiled a 6 billion euro cost-cutting package Mr Cowen said he was extremely sorry about the economic crisis.

Despite public support for the beleaguered Taoiseach at just 8%, Mr Cowen vowed to fight on and lead the ruling Fianna Fail party into a general election in the new year.

"No one is more sorry. Is that understandable?," said Mr Cowen.

"No one is more sorry about this situation than I am, nobody."

Young families, the unemployed and middle income earners have been left holding the bill for Ireland's banking binge after the Government unleashed its latest austerity budget.

The most contentious aspects included cuts in child benefit, social welfare, and bringing lower earners into the tax base.

Opposition parties, trade union leaders, anti-poverty campaigners, children's rights organisations and others denounced the draconian package as an attack on the poor, middle income earners and the vulnerable.

But during a fiery interview on state broadcaster RTE Radio, Mr Cowen claimed the Government's economic policies had seen those on the top pay more and the least well off less.

When challenged that Fianna Fail showed no shame over the collapse of the economy, the Taoiseach said he was apologising unconditionally.

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