Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny: I’ll cut 30,000 public jobs and it will be painless
In the latest shots in the Irish election campaign, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has claimed he can deliver a reduction of 30,000 staff in the Repbulic’s public sector without resorting to compulsory redundancies.
However, Mr Kenny struggled to explain his party's policy to abolish compulsory Irish as a Leaving Cert subject — amid claims it would lead to the language's “gradual death”.
Mr Kenny was put under pressure by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Labour's Eamon Gilmore during the historic leaders' debate in Irish.
In the first three-way debate of the campaign, the leaders clashed on a variety of economic and policy issues, including the bank guarantee and the Croke Park deal.
Mr Kenny sought to quell a growing backlash from Irish language activists and Gaeltacht communities over his plan to downgrade the status of the language in schools.
He had to emphasise that it would not be made non-compulsory until a review of Irish as a Leaving Cert subject was carried out — and his party would be giving bonus points to students who did take it.
Fianna Fail leader Mr Martin insisted that the move would lead to the “gradual death” of the Irish language, while Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it would |destroy the Gaeltacht economies that depend on the arrival of Irish language students every summer.
All three leaders were comfortable, relaxed and showed a good command of the Irish language.
Although Mr Kenny said Fine Gael's 30,000 public sector redundancies would be voluntary and would not affect frontline services, Mr Martin said Fine Gael's 30,000 redundancies were too much.
“In my opinion, they will be unable to achieve that,” Mr Martin said.