Belfast Telegraph

Cross-party cuts deal 'killed off'

The prospect of cross-party support on multi-billion euro spending cuts has been effectively killed off after talks between Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the opposition failed to reach consensus.

Labour and Fine Gael vowed to come up with their own budget plans after the two-hour meeting with Mr Cowen and Green Party leader John Gormley.

Both opposition parties said there would be no further meetings between the leaders.

Labour chief Eamon Gilmore said: "This particular exercise is now over.

"We take the view that it's Fianna Fail that got us into this mess, and that they mishandled the banking situation and it's not possible to have a four-year budgetary plan without having in place a Government that has a mandate for a four to five-year period.

"The Taoiseach doesn't agree with that and this particular exercise of leaders meeting, that's now at an end."

Striking a more conciliatory tone, Enda Kenny said it was agreed the Government would continue to provide figures to the opposition and there would be further briefings from the Department of Finance.

The Fine Gael leader said the shared agreement between the four parties of the need to cut the deficit to 3% of Gross Domestic Product, or the value of the economy, by 2014 would send a strong signal to the international markets.

But he added: "Fine Gael will produce our own programme and our own views on how the target should be reached and how that can be achieved."

Mr Gormley, who first proposed a national consensus on a four-year budget road map almost two weeks ago, said he had no illusions about the difficulty of achieving cross-party support.


From Belfast Telegraph