Credit: Gript

McGrath: FF “will be held accountable for our term in the current government”

Fianna Fáil Minister Michael McGrath has shot down suggestions that recent comments by Fine Gael Minister Simon Harris about “economic mismanagement” were a subtle dig at his party.

Minister Harris made the remarks last Wednesday in the context of Ireland’s housing crisis, saying that it took “many years to fix, to repair those deep scars from the economic crash and economic mismanagement of this country.” Some interpreted this as a subtle jab at his coalition partners in Fianna Fáil, who presided over the 2008 recession.

Asked by Gript on Thursday if he had interpreted these comments as a shot at his party, McGrath replied “No, I didn’t.”

“The truth is we’ve had three general elections since the financial crisis and the economic shock that happened in Ireland, which we are also deeply conscious of,” he said.

“And of course, it certainly took a number of years for Ireland to recover from that. But when you look back, the recovery actually was quite quick. And I think in those early days, the roadmap was laid out for the recovery of the Irish economy and that roadmap was essentially followed. And I think it has proved to be successful.”

He added: “I think at the next general election, my party will be held accountable for our term in the current government.”

He went on to list several economic achievements in recent years by the government.

“When it comes to the economy, we see today a new record high in the labour force survey, 2.64 million people at work, an overall employment rate of the working-age population of 74%, an increase of 88,000 jobs in the last year, public finances in good health,” he said.

“So when it comes to the economy and the public finances, I think the role that we have played in the term of this government is what will most influence people when they consider my party and economic issues in the next election.”

Last week the Irish Examiner reported that some “senior TDs” within Fine Gael had allegedly set their minds on distinguishing their party from Fianna Fáil ahead of any potential future elections.

Asked if the gaps between the parties were likely to widen as the elections approached, McGrath said that it was difficult to strike a balance.

“You know, it’s always difficult to strike the right balance, because you have three distinctive parties in the coalition, all of whom right through the life of the government, would want to have their own stamp on policy, on announcements,” he said.

“We want to get ahead of stories and initiate discussions and so on. And that’s all normal. That’s part of politics.”

However, he said that the public would judge the government coalition based on its “cohesion.”

“I think in the round, people judge a government by cohesion, by collective responsibility,” he said.

“They will judge the three parties by how well they have worked together, and there will be ample opportunity coming up to the next election for the three parties to set out their own distinctive style by means of separate election manifestos. And that debate will be going on for many weeks and months in the lead up to the next election. But for now, no, I think we’ve got some distance to run.”

McGrath added that he believes the government will run until “Spring of 2025,” and that there would inevitably be inter-party tensions within the coalition in the intervening period.

“We have the forthcoming budget,” he said.

“I believe we will deliver final budgets in October of next year, and people will ultimately judge us by how well we’ve worked together and what we have delivered for the country over that period of time. But you will inevitably have tensions from time to time when you have three parties all trying to maintain a distinct identity in the lifetime of a working government. So it’s challenging. But, you know, I think we’re doing okay so far.”

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