Belfast Telegraph

Gilmore hints at budget 'relief'

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has claimed that savings in the budget could be less than the planned 3.1 billion euro.

The Labour leader said the Government will do what is necessary to meet deficit targets under the bailout deal but suggested that cuts and taxes may not be as tough as expected.

"Most people now accept that for this year's budget, which will be a difficult budget, for this year's budget we should be able to meet the targets without having to do the full 3.1 billion that was originally pencilled in for it," he said.

"I'm satisfied that we can reach our targets this year by doing a budget adjustment of less than 3.1 billion euro."

Mr Gilmore refused to comment on reports that the coalition partners Fine Gael and Labour are divided over the budget with ministers at odds over 300m euro of the savings.

The budget will be announced on October 15 by Finance Minister Michael Noonan, about two months earlier than normal under European demands to have the figures scrutinised in Brussels.

Mr Gilmore said he would not comment on speculation about the specifics of the budget plan, but gave assurances that no proposals are on the table to cut the old age pension.

The Tanaiste said he wanted to see a focus on supporting families in the budget and said the coalition was looking at bringing in free GP care for children.

"I believe families have suffered considerably as a result of the recession and families have suffered the contraction in the budgets and when we look at the forthcoming budget we have to look at some way of providing relief," he said.

The Tanaiste also dismissed speculation of a rift between himself and his Labour Party deputy, Joan Burton.

In an interview on RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke, Mr Gilmore said he had a "very good" working, political and personal relationship with the Social Protection Minister.

"There is always speculation about who's getting on with who, who's arguing with who," Mr Gilmore said.

"There is a kind of soap opera dimension that goes on around the edges of politics."

He said he was not concerned about a potential uprising within the Labour Party against him, saying that, if there were such plans to oust him, he would have heard about them by now.

Elsewhere, Mr Gilmore defended his role as Foreign Affairs Minister.

He said it was an important job, even though it often takes him away from domestic issues.

"My role as Minister for Foreign Affairs is central to our economic recovery," he said.

"The reputation of the country is one of the first things we have to restore."

Mr Gilmore said Ireland's reputation abroad had been "in tatters" when the Fine Gael-Labour coalition came into power.

He added that the country's trade situation had to be improved, given that Ireland relies on exports.

"I believe I have done a very good job there," he said.

""I think there is a continuing job that needs to be done."

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