Gilmore: Finance Minister out of his depth

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is utterly out of his depth in his current role in charge of the nation’s purse strings, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore claimed today.

Speaking as the Government prepares for one of its toughest ever Budgets next month, Mr Gilmore insisted the Government has blown the boom.

He told TDs and senators: “Brian Lenihan is indeed an intelligent man, and he may have had a contribution to make in the Department of Justice, but he is utterly out of his depth in the Department of Finance. And, with respect, this is no time for learning on the job.”

Labour’s parliamentary party meeting in Clonmel will review the current political climate and devise a parliamentary strategy for the forthcoming Dáil and Seanad term.

He claimed the Government was falsely blaming international factors outside of its control for the economic downturn.

“Let's be clear about it, the names behind Ireland’s economic woes are not Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac. They are Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen,” Mr Gilmore added.

Mr Gilmore said an average of 200 people have lost their jobs every day for the past 12 months.

Referring to recent price rises, he claimed that milk has gone up by 27%, bread by 16%, petrol by 14% and diesel by 32%.

“Ireland’s economy, once our national pride, and the envy of the developed world has slid from rapid growth to recession,” said Mr Gilmore.

“And our public finances have overturned a surplus of €2.3bn in 2006 into a deficit of €8.2bn in the first eight months of this year.”

The think-in will see the economic climate discussed by ESRI economist Alan Barrett and Chambers Ireland chief executive Ian Talbot.

Equality Authority chief executive Niall Crowley and Age Action Ireland spokesman Eamon Timmons will also speak on equality issues and the elderly.

Labour’s public representatives will also plan ahead for the local and European elections.

Labour called on the Government to move to re-stimulate the construction sector and to stabilise the property market.

Mr Gilmore called for a nationwide programme of investment in skills and qualifications.

Competitiveness must be restored in the economy and education spending must be ring-fenced, he added.

Hi-tech start-ups must also be encouraged with research and innovation initiatives.

Mr Gilmore, who was elected leader a year ago, also vowed to continue the modernisation of his party as a national political force.

A wide-ranging report on Labour’s future will be published before a special conference in Kilkenny on November 29.

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