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The man who would be king

*That* Hot Press interview with Brian Cowen from May 2007.

Jason O'Toole, 23 May 2007

The opposition proposals do appear to have merits.

I have been saying this for a week but I can’t get it into newsprint. This is the problem with this election campaign, which is the main point I want to talk to you about. I don’t have an economic plan or a fiscal plan in the name of Labour. What they (Fine Gael and Labour) have produced is seven promises in relation to health and pensions – two of which are flawed. This is all they have agreed on. They then say ‘our other strategic priorities’ – non-specific – (and) they put a figure of €2.9 billion onto those, and they don’t tell us what they are. Why do they do that? Because they can’t agree on them, obviously. If they could agree on them, I would presume they’d tell us. What they are doing is – we have €2 billion to spend here on health and crime – seven specific commitments. There are €2.9 billion spending commitments on other priorities – non-specific and undocumented. So we have a 40% agreement and a 60% fudge. That’s what we have at the minute. What they then do is, they play another con trick. Mr Rabbitte goes off and says what his commitments are as a member of the Labour party, which far exceed €2.9 billion by the way. And Fine Gael go off and do the same.

But aren't they merely making election promises like any other party?

But they are not the same commitments. They are spending the same money twice. People need to analyse what is going on here. This is a con job – plain and simple. When the election is over they are going to say, ‘Now we must negotiate the €2.9 billion’. All the other promises are going to be funnelled into this €2.9 billion magic ‘can’ that they have, which they are going to negotiate after the next election. So everything they are telling you in the meantime has a rider on it. This is treating people as if they’re fools. That’s a pig in a poke.

Fine Gael are promising to help reduce crime by increasing the number of Gardai on the streets.

Everywhere I go Fine Gael have posters up – 2,000 more Gardai. They have only provided €96 million in the budget – that doesn’t get you 2,000 Gardai unless you are putting them out on half pay! You need €190 million to get 2,000 Gardai. Then they say, ‘Sure aren’t you bringing in an extra 1,000 this year.’ So, now they want to take credit for what we are doing, as part of their extra commitment. Again, it’s really dishonest.

Isn’t it true that you weren’t going to deal with the issue of stamp duty for first time buyers. Wasn’t this something unexpectedly dumped on you by Bertie at the Ard Fheis as an election promise?

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