Cowen: “I believe the pursuit of the national interest and the common good must have priority”

With Sinn Féin proposing some more taxes and borrowing here, it’s worth looking at what’s been happening there.

On Saturday 9th October RTÉ noted Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s intial lukewarm response to Green Party leader John Gormley’s call for an all-party consensus on a four-year budget plan.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he would welcome a political consensus on the budgetary measures needed to get the economic situation under control.

However, he said it was up to the Opposition parties to put forward suggestions if they wished to do so, and the Government would then consider them.

Mr Cowen said there was work which was the duty of Government to undertake.

Mr Cowen said the Opposition were being given briefings by the Department of Finance, and if any suggestions emerged that required further discussion he had no problem with it.

When, on 11th October, John Gormley sent a one-page letter summarising the terms of proposed discussions to Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin, RTÉ noted

Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar has said that it would be better for Ireland if most of the adjustments needed to fix the economy were made in the Budget, instead of spreading them out equally over four years.

The Labour Party has said it would study the invitation, while Sinn Féin said it would be happy to attend the meeting.

That’s not quite the impression given by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh in the earlier RTÉ report

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that the idea of some type of national consensus could be looked at, but only after a General Election.

He said the Government was only looking for consensus now after they had made ‘a hames of the economy’.

And while, on the 11th October, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin does say that he is “open to such a meeting”, he also added

“For the past week we have witnessed efforts to pull all the political parties in behind the Fianna Fáil/Green Government’s plan to slash and burn the Irish economy in order to reach a 3% budget deficit by 2014.

“Already the so-called main Opposition parties – Fine Gael and Labour – have signed up to that strategy. Sinn Féin will have no part in it. We are proposing a different way forward which will be outlined in full in our forthcoming pre-budget submission.

“Green Party leader John Gormley says he wants to meet the other party leaders. I am open to such a meeting but one thing is very clear – Sinn Féin will not be joining any false consensus designed to facilitate savage cutbacks and shield the Fianna Fail/Green Government from the political consequences.

And after Taoiseach Brian Cowen had some sharp words with Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore in the Dail on Tuesday 12th October – as reported in the Irish Times

Mr Cowen said he had no objection to a meeting to confirm that a briefing from the Department of Finance was “the pitch on which they were to play”.

He would also favour having talks beyond that, producing an outcome which would meet with everybody’s approval.

Addressing Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, he said: “I am also quite aware of what your stated position is publicly on these fronts already . . . And, you know, there have been policy choices suggested by yourself as late as yesterday that suggest no tax change, no change in welfare . . . a number of things which would make it very difficult, from my point of view, to see how we could make the adjustment without having all these matters on the table.’’

…both Labour and Fine Gael “rejected as unworkable” the Green Party initiative on a national consensus on the budget.

Until today…

Last night the BBC noted that Brian Cowen

…has written to the leaders of the main opposition parties inviting them to talks aimed at establishing an economic consensus.

The Irish Times today reported that the Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has said he “will be responding positively to Mr Cowen’s letter”.  Labour Party TD Pat Rabbitte is sceptical

“Whoever has persuaded Brian Cowen in the direction of last night’s letter is attempting to keep this Government in office for as long as possible,” Deputy Rabbitte said. “And we have passed the stage where that is in the interests of the Irish people.”

However the Labour Party leader, Eamon Gilmore, has accepted the invitation.  Although with Brian Cowen denying it’s a u-turn, Eamon Gilmore is playing down expectations.

“I don’t think anybody should expect there is going to be a budget with consensus this year,” [Eamon Gilmore] told RTÉ Radio.

“The Taoiseach is talking about a four year plan. [This is] not credible unless you have a Government with a mandate to see it through,” he said. “I’m not going to engage in some sort of marriage counselling between the Taoiseach and one of his ministers.”

Sinn Féin, who have not been invited by the Taoiseach, are outraged…

[Sinn Féin party president Gerry] Adams said: “If the Taoiseach is serious about acting in the national interest, there must be an honest assessment of all the options available to tackle the economic and fiscal crisis.

“The Taoiseach’s decision to exclude Sinn Féin from discussions because the party has a different opinion is reprehensible.”

The party president said Sinn Féin has proposals to cut the deficit but claimed they would not rely on savage cutbacks to do so.

Mr Cowen said Sinn Féin did not support the need to slash the deficit to 3% of GDP by 2014.

“Clearly if that’s their position, there is no basis upon which we can find a common conclusion for a solution to a problem,” the Taoiseach said.

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  • White Horse

    Adams in fantasy land as usual.

  • pippakin

    This ‘suggestion’ is awfully close to loss of independence and exactly whose ‘suggestion’ is it.

    As for SF they still need to invest in a good economist. Robbing banks is not an economic policy, no matter how much it appeals to me.

  • Alias

    Contrary to Cowen’s spin, his government is not acting in the “common good” of the Irish nation by forcing them to retrospectively underwrite several hundred billion worth of commercial loans that do not belong to them. He is, in fact, acting contrary to the common good of the Irish nation and, therefore, unconstitutionally.

    As Article 6, s. 1 of the Constitution puts it: “All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State and, in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good.”

    Or, rather, he would be acting unconstitutionally if the Irish nation wasn’t tricked into giving its sovereignty away to those who now determine the policy in their common good that Cowen is obligated to implement since the government no longer “decide all questions of national policy” and the EU interest has replaced the national interest. The annexed treaties have now perverted the Constitution so far beyond its original meaning and purpose that the government is “bound to act in a way that [is] be inconsistent with the Constitution.”

    The state is bound by the Maastricht Treaty in economic policy in exactly the same way as the SEA treaty bound the state in its foreign policy:

    78. It follows that the common good of the Irish people is the ultimate standard by which the constitutional validity of the conduct of foreign affairs by the Government is to be judged. In this and in a number of other respects throughout the Constitution the central position of the common good of the Irish people is stressed as one of the most fundamental characteristics of Ireland as a sovereign, independent, democratic state.

    79. A perusal of Title III of the SEA satisfies me that each ratifying Member State will be bound to surrender part of its sovereignty in .the conduct of foreign relations. That is to happen as part of a process designed to formulate and implement a European foreign policy. The freedom of action of each state is to be curtailed in the interests of the common good of the Member States as a whole. Thus, for example, in regard to Ireland, while under the Constitution the point of reference for the determination of a final position on any issue of foreign relations is the common good of the Irish people, under Title III the point of reference is required to be the common position determined by Member States. It is to be said that such a common position cannot be reached without Ireland’s consent, but Title III is not framed in a manner which would allow Ireland to refuse to reach a common position on the ground of its obligations under the Irish Constitution. There is no provision in the Treaty for a derogation by Ireland where its constitutional obligations so require. On the contrary, Title III expressly provides:-

    “In adopting its positions and in its national measures [which presumably would include Acts of the Oireachtas] each High Contracting Party shall take full account of the positions of the other partners and shall give due consideration to the desirability of adopting and implementing common European positions.”

    80. Thus, if the other Member States were to take up a common position on an issue of external relations, Ireland, in adopting its own position and in its national measures, would be bound by Title III to “take full account” of the common position of the other Member States. To be bound by a solemn international treaty to act thus is, in my opinion, inconsistent with the obligation of the Government to conduct its foreign relations according to the common good of the Irish people. In this and in other respects Title III amounts to a diminution of Ireland’s sovereignty which is declared in unqualified terms in the Irish Constitution.

    81. It is urged on behalf of the Government that the changes in existing inter-state relations effected by Title III are slight, that it does little more than formalise existing practices and procedures by converting them into binding obligations. This, I fear, is to underestimate the true nature in international law of a treaty as distinct from a mere practice or procedure, and to misinterpret the commitments for the future involved in Title III. As a treaty, Title III is not designed in static terms. It not alone envisages changes in inter-state relations, but also postulates and requires those changes. And the purpose of those changes is to erode national independence in the conduct of external relations in the interests of European political cohesion in foreign relations. As I have pointed out, the treaty marks the transformation of the European Communities from an organisation which has so far been essentially economic to one that is to be political also. It goes beyond existing arrangements and practices, in that it establishes within the framework of the Communities new institutions and offices (such as European Political Cooperation, the Political Director and the Political Committee) and charts a route of co-ordination, by means such as working parties, a secretariat and regular meetings, so as to give impetus to the drive for European unity.

    82. All this means that if Ireland were to ratify the Treaty it would be bound in international law to engage actively in a programme which would trench progressively on Ireland’s independence and sovereignty in the conduct of foreign relations. Ireland would therefore become bound to act in a way that would be inconsistent with the Constitution. The Government’s constitutional mandate requires it to act in accordance with the Constitution. In proposing to ratify this treaty it is in effect seeking to evade that obligation and to substitute for it an obligation, or a series of obligations, in international law which cannot be reconciled with the constitutional obligations.

    – Justise J. Henchy, The Supreme Court, Crotty v. An Taoiseach

    Any ‘grand coalition’ in this treasonous context would simply be designed to ensure that the Irish nation can be compelled to contain all eurosystem debts within their state without any prospect (however remote) of successfully objecting to their own enslavement by the EU and its local puppet administration.

  • padraig









    the same time

    for having BEEN



    good bye



  • Alias

    What does it matter if he is re-elected or not? With the exception of PSF, all political parties in Dáil Éireann are EU puppet parties with all of the main political parties implementing a policy that only selects Europhiles to run for a seat and reject all those potential candidates that are anti-EU or Eurosceptic. That is why 160 out of 166 TDs voted for the Lisbon Treaty. Even if you throw Cowen out, you’ll still have several hundred billion of nationalised debts to repay to the eurosystem and you’ll still have a government that is committed to bailing it out by taxing several hundred billion of your money and diverting it from public spending in the Irish economy and exporting it via eurosystem banks in Ireland to eurosystem banks in Germany, France, et al. The upside to PSF is that they’re the only political party that isn’t a puppet party of EU rule. The downside is that they’re a puppet party of UK rule.

  • Wan

    The decision on the banks was ten times more important than this budget passing (which we were told was going to cost 4.2 billion btw not 50 billion), where was the willingness to listen to the opposition then?
    There is no need for consensus on which cuts to make (which is what Cowen is essentially calling for), merely on the amount which is needed to be is raised. Which FF, Gn, FG and Lab have ALL agreed is 3 billion and all agreed that they will cut/tax that much extra. This will have the effect of showing the bond markets that all the serious players in the Dáil will tackle the deficit. The call for everyone to approve the FF cuts is just an exercise to shield themselves from the decisions they make. I actually agree with SF on this: No talk of national consensus until there’s a general election held. If they really wanted what’s best for Ireland, long term stability and certainty, they would call a general election which would mandate the new Govt. to make the 4 year plan and actually have the time to see it through.

  • Greenflag

    ‘they still need to invest in a good economist.’

    But where will you find one ? For the past 20 years the vast majority of them have had their ‘brains’ up their rear ends while pretending to the world at large that ‘recessions’ were a thing of the past and that neo con ‘trickle down economics would lead to an ever more prosperous society for all ?

    The Santa Claus ‘economists’ and their political fellow travellers delivered instead a world economic crisis -several wars and the biggest income gap between people since the ‘gilded’ age ?

    Without an elected government to protect their interests -middle and working class people in western societies will have to go back to ‘trade unionism ‘ to defend their interests. . Capital -much less international capital – has eh other priorities !

    They (SF) might want to have a look at the Scandinavian countries for ‘economic’ advice’.

  • Greenflag

    Alias ,

    apologies that reply was to pippikin above .

  • Greenflag

    What’s needed is a ‘national interparty government ‘ probably under a new Taoiseach . Whether that’s achieved by means of a general election or not is almost beside the point at this stage . This 3% deficit by 2014 is daft . By 2020 would be more easily attainable .

  • Alias

    “This will have the effect of showing the bond markets that all the serious players in the Dáil will tackle the deficit.”

    Bondholders aren’t stimulated by balanced books since their business is stimulated by the unbalanced variety. Balanced books means no business for government bondholders. All they care about is (a) how much can they screw of a country, and (b) will the borrower default (not caring when CDS applies).

    In so far as they are impressed by cuts in public spending, it is only to the extent that the cuts allow the taxed income to be diverted to fund the government’s guarantee scheme rather than spent on the citizens who paid those taxes to fund the public services that they will no longer receive.

    This is what happens when a nation gives its sovereignty away to a third party. That third party then determine the policies in its own interest and not in the interest of the nation that has given it away and duly forfeited its former right to determine its own affairs in its own interest.

    When there is a conflict of interest between the common good of the third party and the common good of the nation then the third party will resolve that conflict in its common good and not the common good of the nation, since the nation has given it the power to do that.

    Since it isn’t in the eurosystem’s common good that it should collapse due to its own systemic flaws, the EU has determined the policy to be that those debts should be contained in the borrowing state rather than default to the lending state. The government is constitutionally obliged to implement that policy even though it inconsistent with requirement in the Constitution to act in the common good of the nation.

  • Greenflag

    Alias’s multiple single topic anti EU postings would be partly tolerable if he paid a little more attention to the origin of this economic crisis and not to it’s latest symptoms . He never admits to the role of Wall St and the USA’s export of worthless paper around the world ? He’s just another neo con preaching MIlton Friedman and trickle down economics which is about to be vomited up into the face of it’s creators as the ideological bullshit it always was .

    Anybody with half a political or economic brain must by understand that ALL our western politicians be they Irish , British , American , French or German are for the most part in the pockets of the big banks , insurance corporations , energy companies , big oil and the global investment hedge fund ‘managers ‘ It matters little whether any country calls itself sovereign or not for in truth they/we are all in thrall to the unrivalled power of the biggest corporations and particularly those in the financial and power industries .
    People as individuals and as voters will have to unite to defeat oligarchic ‘rule’ by private corporations . The Chilean Miner’s rescue cost 16 million euros /dollars approx . In the run up to the USA mid term elections during the last few weeks over 200 million dollars of ‘corporate’ money has been spent on radio /tv advertising to attack anyone opposed to the GOP message of ‘ we won’t tax the rich 5% ‘ and ‘we know how to start trillion dollar wars but not stop them ‘

    There is a reason why energy alternatives to fossil fuel dependency are not being pushed to the extent they could be by governments . The last USA President to effectively try to control the oligarchic -anti democratic power of the gilded age corporations was Teddy Roosevelt . Since his time Carter tried so too did Clinton and so too Obama is trying but the accumulated and concentrated power of these economic behemoths/tyrants is now too great for even the USA Government . Obama knows that even half his own party in Congress and the Senate has been ‘bought ‘ out by big coal/oil / pharmaceuticals/private health insurance / and the ‘war ‘ industry .

    For those who might want to know the actuality rather than the theory of what’s happening in the alternative energy world and want to see the way ahead for the USA and the EU this is /was the man to listen to . In the interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now he reveals why German manufacturing has held up and expanded and not declined as it has in the UK and USA and puts forward practical reasons as to why solar alternatives are not only possible but desirable a.s.a.p.

  • Greenflag

    Hermann Scheer’s view of USA ‘sovereignty’ in this extract below . A view which many Americans are loathe to acknowledge but know to be true . Both Irish and British governments are just as ‘unsovereign’ in their displays of energy ‘sovereignty’ .Without access to ‘energy’ nothing can work . Some 40 less developed economies worldwide now pay more annually for their energy imports than they can earn in foreign currency from their ‘exports’. Modern capitalism for these countries is abject failure waiting for the inevitable social explosion and bloody revolution .

    Scheer’s extract

    ‘And besides the unique political advantage to come to energy independence, it is—not to mention, this would be my argument, and I speak about it in this way when I give speeches in the United States, including speeches in the—or having talks with congressmen—the big democratic state like the United States, the first power, political power, in the world now, must behave like a beggar when they go to the king of Saudi Arabia, who is—who represents a feudalistic regime of the Middle Age, in order to have good relations for getting all this oil. This is—I think this is against any dignity. This is against any dignity pragmatically, and it’s against any rationality in practice. Such a dependence from—and without energy, nothing works. It must be a political—a main topic, political topic, to come to energy independence, to overcome this irresponsible dependency, which would cost a lot. More than one-third—more than one-third of the American defense budget is only given for protecting the oil and the energy importation lines. Only for that. The Gulf War would not—would not have—happened.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The downside is that they’re a puppet party of UK rule.”

    Irrelevant . The real downside is that their electoral support is about 7% in the Republic and unlikely to be much better after the next election.