Fianna Fáil are re-writing history by asserting that they laid the foundations for Ireland’s recovery, says Fine Gael TD for Longford Westmeath, and member of the Public Accounts Committee, Peter Burke.
Reacting to the speech of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen this week, Deputy Burke said: “The brass neck of Fianna Fáil continues to amaze. Brian Cowen’s comments this week echo similar interventions by Micheál Martin in recent years. While there is no need to rake over the coals of who is to blame for the economic crash, Fianna Fáil really fan the flames when they try to take credit for the recovery that followed.
“Let’s look at the facts. At the time of the bailout, the main straightjacket enforced by the Troika was the level of budgetary correction needed, but there was some choice as to how to achieve this.
“Fianna Fáil’s plan of 2010 showed that the overall level of budgetary correction could be met, but the last government thankfully departed from Fianna Fáil’s key policies which included further income tax rises, removing tax relief on pensions, and water charges of €500 per household.
“It is often forgotten that Fine Gael in Government renegotiated the Troika bailout agreement. We achieved reduced interest rates on our bailout funding, worth greater than expected savings of €9bn. We achieved extended maturities on parts of our European loans, reducing our borrowing by €20bn over 2015-2022. We got rid of the costly promissory notes arrangement, reducing our borrowing by a further €20bn over 10 years. Furthermore, we repaid €18bn of IMF loans early, saving €1.5bn.
“This renegotiation of our debt significantly reduced the cost of the bailout, easing pressure on public finances, restoring confidence, and so increasing investment in the economy.
“Since then Fine Gael’s progressive and pro-enterprise policies have helped to restore growth to our economy, taking the opposite approach to Fianna Fáil.
“Fianna Fáil worsened the crisis by putting 80% of their tax increases on jobs during what was an unemployment heavy recession, through the introduction of the USC and cutting income tax bands and credits.
“By contrast Fine Gael protected jobs by eschewing income tax increases in successive budgets. Our Action Plan for Jobs was pivotal in the creation of over 200,000 jobs and the reduction of the unemployment rate from 15% to 6%.
“We introduced a 9% VAT rate for tourism, which led to 30,000 jobs in the midst of the recession.
“Our trade policy sought to restore Ireland’s reputation abroad and the approach was to resolutely defend our corporation tax regime and to secure continued multinational investment to help create jobs.
“Fine Gael has turned a failed construction based economy into a competitive trade and enterprise orientated economy.
“This is something Minister Richard Bruton was calling for right throughout Fianna Fáil’s years when he raised concerns about the vulnerability of an economy that was driven by unsustainable public spending increases and an over reliance on the construction sector, and devoid of a comprehensive enterprise strategy. It is not correct for Brian Cowen to assert that the then opposition didn’t raise concerns about Fianna Fáil’s policies.
“We restored economic growth while maintaining core social welfare rates in order to protect the vulnerable in our society; this is after cuts of €8 per week in both Budgets 2010 and 2011. We restored the minimum wage after Fianna Fáil cut it and we removed 450,000 low paid people out of the USC net.
“Fine Gael is determined to build a republic of opportunity and ensure that everyone in society can benefit from the economic recovery underway. Fianna Fáil’s approach would put a halt to the progress and ruin the economy once again. Don’t be fooled by their attempts to re-write history.”